ThistleDown to stay in Cuyahoga County

NORTH RANDALL -- ThistleDown Racino will remain in Cuyahoga County, its owner, Rock Ohio Caesars announced Wednesday.

Today was the deadline to let the Ohio State Racing Commission know if the company intended to move the operation under the terms of a 2011 agreement with the state to allow video lottery terminals at the state's seven horse racing tracks.

Just before 3 p.m. Shannon Mortland, director of public relations for Caesars in the Ohio region, and ThistleDown Racino announced the facility will remain at its current Cuyahoga County location and will not exercise its state-approved option to relocate to the Akron-Canton area.

The 89-year-old racetrack was recently expanded to include video lottery terminals and reopened as a "racino" in spring 2013. The ThistleDown Racino site straddles the city of North Randall and the village of Warrensville Heights.

Racino owner Rock Ohio Caesars considered its option to move the facility but ultimately determined that Cleveland's East Side is the best location to operate and further expand the facility. The village, city and county's desire to make needed infrastructure upgrades and improvements to further develop the area surrounding ThistleDown was a determining factor in ROC's decision to retain and expand ThistleDown in Cuyahoga County.

The area has experienced a renewed interest from investors and a significant increase in visitors since the Racino opened last year. Local officials are expected to begin upgrade and improvement plans in the coming months.

"We are pleased that our preliminary talks to revitalize the area surrounding the racino played a role in ThistleDown's decision to stay, and we are excited to begin working immediately with the various stakeholders to bring these plans to life," said Mayor David Smith of North Randall.

"We are elated to hear the news that ThistleDown has decided to play an important part in the continuous growth of our area," said Mayor Brad Sellers of Warrensville Heights. "ThistleDown, Warrensville Heights and the surrounding area have a bright future."

"ThistleDown Racino has received a tremendous welcome from Cleveland's East Side and from the Northeast Ohio community as a whole," said Marcus Glover, Northeast Ohio senior vice president and general manager of Caesars Entertainment. "We look forward to working with the mayors and county to determine how to further enhance the guest experience at ThistleDown for years to come."

In agreement with the Ohio State Racing Commission, ThistleDown plans to invest at least an additional $60 million to update and add guest amenities. Over the next several months, the racino will explore improvements that will further enhance ThistleDown's gaming and entertainment experience.

The additional investment will be the latest in a host of upgrades to transform ThistleDown into a premier gaming and entertainment destination.

ThistleDown reopened on April 9, 2013, following an $89 million renovation that added a 24,000-square-foot video lottery terminal gaming floor, six dining options, two bars and Ohio's first outdoor gaming patio. The addition of gaming also created more than 600 jobs at the property.

Included in the renovation was a $1 million upgrade to the wagering floor, which added more than 150 high-definition, 60-inch, flat screen TVs for horse racing enthusiasts to enjoy both live and year-round simulcast racing action.

Rock has been considering the move to the Akron-Canton area to ease competition in the Northeast Ohio gambling market served by the Hard Rock Rocksino, ThistleDown and Cleveland's Horseshoe Casino.

Back in 2012, a deal worked out by Ohio Gov. John Kasich stipulated Rock Ohio would pay the state $25 million to move the track and another $50 million as a license fee to add up to 2,500 video lottery terminals.

The track would have had to be within 12 miles of the Akron-Canton Airport. However, residents of the city of Green -- located in that 12-mile radius -- already voted to block any such expansion in Green by changing the city's charter.


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