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Caesars will run, help fund, Ohio casinos

Caesars Entertainment Corp. completed an agreement with the founder of Quicken Loans to build two casinos in the Ohio cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The company will operate the casinos and provide an undisclosed percentage of the funding for the projects, which are expected to cost $1 billion to build. Both casinos are expected to open by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Ohio voters approved the development of one casino in each of the state’s four largest cities — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Columbus — in a November 2009 constitutional referendum. Penn National Gaming is expected to build and operate the casinos in Toledo and Columbus.

Caesars, which had been known as Harrah’s Entertainment until late November, originally planned to fund its portion of the development costs through a stock offering, which the company canceled.

Analysts thought Caesars could use some of the money it received earlier this year when New York hedge fund Paulson & Co. swapped $710 million in debt in exchange for equity in the casino operator.

In a statement, Caesars said the joint venture, which is majority owned by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert through his Rock Gaming company, would spend $600 million to develop the Cleveland casino and $400 million on the casino in Cincinnati.

Gilbert, who owns the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers, said the Cleveland casino would attract 8 million visitors to the downtown area annually. The Cincinnati casino will be built on 20 acres on the northeast side of the city’s downtown.

Combined, the two projects could create almost 13,000 in direct construction and permanent jobs.

“Caesars Entertainment shares Rock Gaming’s vision for these urban casinos that will create jobs, spur local economies and increase tax revenues throughout the state of Ohio,” said John Payne, president of Caesars central division.

Caesars operates 52 casinos worldwide, including 10 Strip casinos, and the World Series of Poker.

The two Penn National casinos are not expected to be ready until 2012.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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