News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

NOCHE

Akron Children's Hospital


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Economy and Business


Something old, something new at Thistledown
On Ohio Derby day, veteran horse-racing fans mix with stampeding slots players at Northeast Ohio's first racino
by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA


Reporter
Kabir Bhatia
 
Thistledown was built in 1931 and has been hosting the Ohio Derby for decades.
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
The horse “Title Contender” won the 79th Ohio Derby over the weekend, the first running of the race since Thistledown became the state’s second racino. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the completion of the track’s $89 million makeover.
Something old, something new at Thistledown

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:24)


Horse-racing is why Thistledown was built in 1931. For decades, the Ohio Derby has been the busiest day of the year there, with
 hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake for horses from the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown races. But since April, when Rock Ohio Caesar’s re-opened the doors, wagering has taken on a new life.

The newly named “Thistledown Racino” is now home to 1,100 video slot machines. The large brick building chimes away 24/7 across from dormant Randall Park Mall, just south of Cleveland and north of the I-480/I-271 split. The former grandstand entrance, which was painted industrial blue and looked every bit of its 89 years, is now a neon mini-Vegas gaming floor.

Slots v. ponies
Robert James from Cleveland vaguely remembers the old set-up from his occasional trips to play the ponies. Now, he visits weekly for slot play, which he prefers to the track.

“You have to do a lot of studying and thinking on that. Here, you just put it in and play. If you win, you win. If you don’t, you don’t.”

He may be on to something; during our interview, his winnings jumped from $9 to $106. But what James sees as a plus for slots, Terry Kristek sees as a minus.

“I like to try and figure out who’s gonna win. Betting on horse-racing is kind of a puzzle, whereas slots are a mindless crapshoot.”

More tweaks
The electrician from Medina estimates he’s been to the Ohio Derby every year since he was 8. The changes he’s seen in the last year are nice, but he’d like a few more tweaks.

“They re-did the fourth floor, and they used to have betting carousels where you would pay money and have your own TV. Now they have those same carousels and there’s no fee, but now you don’t have your own TV. And you have to look at the monitors on the wall. But a lot of big bettors like to have control over what they’re watching.”

Many of the veteran bettors noticed that change, but were split on the merits of the 150 new flat-screen TVs. The fourth floor, where all the action used to take place, has also been re-decorated.

A stampede
Caesar's spokeswoman Shannon Mortland says the new slots traffic downstairs has also spilled over into the horse-racing.

“We’re seeing a lot of people come up from the VLT floor to really learn more about this. So we’ve started holding handicapping seminars to teach people how to bet on a horse. How to place a smart bet. There’s a renewed interest in horse-racing for sure.”

One change many hoped for is on the track itself. In the past, a jumbo-tron gave a view of the back stretch of the track during races. It’s been covered over for a few years – even before the Caesar’s takeover -- currently with a Horseshoe Casino billboard. Don Heina wants the jumbo-tron back. His pencil moustache, dark glasses and slick, dark suit make him look like a movie character. A movie character who’s been coming to Thistledown for 40 years.

“They’ve got a lot more TVs so you can do a lot more wagering at other tracks. I like it. Before it was a graveyard, literally. With the casino it brings in a bigger crowd.”

The racino that never sleeps
Horseshoe says traffic is up at Thistledown due to the slots, restaurants and live music. Until last spring, live racing only went from about noon until 5 p.m., about half the year, although simulcast racing was available most of the day. Now, the racino-that-never-sleeps has a climate-controlled patio for gamers like Nancy Priggins from Mentor.

“This is my favorite place. I seem to win here quite a bit. It’s a smaller casino. And I can’t get lost. I have good luck here. We come about once a week. We enjoy it.”

Changes ahead
Caesar’s bought Thistledown in 2010 for $43 million, a year after parent company Magna Entertainment filed for bankruptcy. Earlier this year, in its first full month as a racino, Thistledown pulled in almost $11 million from slots, about equal to the slots take at the Cleveland casino despite the Higbee Building venue having 40 percent more slots.

But Thistledown will have nearby competition and a legal challenge in the next few months. A racino is slated to open an hour east in Austintown, and owner Penn National has already scaled-back its planned number of slot machines there by a third. Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of slot machines at the state’s horse-racing tracks. Proponents say it’s just an extension of the Ohio Lottery, but opponents say the issue must go before voters.
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Cleveland deal ramps up civilian oversight of police
i would like to see police get mandatory psych evals one a year from out side the department.

The generation gap in care for developmentally disabled Ohioans
I don't understand how a few hours a day of caregiving can possibly help a person who lives with complex/multiple disabilities. Many waiver recipients totally d...

Marijuana referendum may change more than pot's legal status in Ohio
If our representatives would act in accordance with the will of the people things like this wouldn't happen. They dragged their feet and blocked discussion on t...

Area pastors and congregation members protest justice system
I live in Cleveland. trust me when I say the high incarceration rate is due to the high crime rate.

Ohio's attorney general rejectsthe latest proposal to legalize marijuana
i think the ag launguage is money hes talking about drug companies must pay him more than responsible ohio can

PBS documentary chronicles the fall of Saigon through new footage and stories
Hi, Does anyone know the number - in the pbs special "Last Days of Vietnam" documentary, of how many Vietnamese were evacuated? Please e-mail me the answer. T...

Protest planned at tomorrow's FirstEnergy meeting
The problems of the poor and downtrodden have nothing to do with First Energy. They are the result of Republican legislators who consistently reduce taxes on th...

Ohio bill would help smaller communities with LGBT discrimination laws
Do we not try and have rights for all individuals equally? On the HUD list of "preferred" candidates who get "special consideration" it states that: For purp...

Ohio likely will continue with two types of police academies
Wake up people your wanting a Harvard law school education for a job that may pay a little over the poverty level. I don't know anyone who could support a wife ...

Police Week's ties from NE Ohio to D.C.
The men and women in blue who risk their lives everyday to serve and protect us....and this is as much recognition and appreciation that NPR/WKSU feels to offer...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University