Photos from inside the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, scheduled to open March 4, 2013, in downtown Cincinnati. Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO Digital
Back in the day, it was Broadway Commons versus the riverfront.
These days, though, the two sites are working together. On its opening day Tuesday, Horseshoe Casino is partnering with Hamilton County and The Banks to offer free parking on the riverfront and a shuttle between the two venues.
That’s a far cry from the late 1990s, when Cincinnati’s baseball lovers were divided over where the new Cincinnati Reds ballpark would be built. Many favored the site dubbed Broadway Commons at Reading Road and Central Parkway where the casino now sits. Hamilton County and the Reds preferred the riverfront, which, of course, is where Great American Ball Park ended up.
Now the casino and The Banks – the city’s two hot, new entertainment centers – are looking for ways to help each other.
In addition to the opening day parking partnership, the casino likely will look for more opportunities to team up with the Banks as it gets up and running, said Mike Warren, Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati’s vice president of marketing.
And The Banks will be looking for those opportunities, too, especially once developers build a hotel they’re planning for the riverfront, said Laura Swadel, vice president at Carter, one of the companies responsible for developing The Banks.
“Anything that brings additional visitors to downtown will help increase visitors to The Banks,” she said in an email. “A rising tide lifts all boats. While some of these visitors will choose only to visit the casino, many of them will choose to visit the casino and spend time at places nearby – like Fountain Square or The Banks.”
Warren said he agrees, and the casino will be looking for ways to partner with The Banks, the Reds and the Bengals in the year ahead.
The key to making any of those partnerships work will be convenient access, said Jeff Rexhausen, senior research associate at the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Rexhausen said he doesn’t know of any studies that have examined what kind of economic impact the casino could have on The Banks or vice versa. But he knows city officials want to figure out the best way to maximize the casino’s impact on The Banks and the rest of downtown.
The casino has partnered with 10 local downtown restaurants – two of which are at the Banks – and seven downtown hotels. Those partnerships provide reduced prices to casino visitors, but the economic impact of those perks is unknown.
The city has made improvements in infrastructure and way-finding signage around the casino in hopes that Horseshoe visitors will find it easy to make their way to other parts of downtown, said Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director.
“We know that predictions are 95 percent of attendance is predicted to be coming from a car, but we hope these improvements encourage people to leave the casino,” she said. “We don’t want to have it be this glittery island and crumbling infrastructure around it.”