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Caesars’ hotel: a royal flush

Caesars’ hotel: a royal flush
Caesars’ hotel: a royal flush
Caesars Indiana's new hotel, which opened last week, has 10 floors and 503 rooms. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

Caesars Indiana laid its cards on the table last week and came up with a royal flush.
“This is what life was meant to be,” said James Coulter of Elizabeth to one and all, obviously enjoying the plush surroundings and the delicious delicacies served in Caesars’ hotel lobby Wednesday at the opening reception. “All the time. Every day.”
“The accommodations are absolutely luxurious; the people here are wonderful,” said Donna Blevins of Bonita Springs, Fla.
She should know.
Blevins travels extensively as a columnist and account executive for “Poker Digest,” a publication dedicated to improving the game and lifestyle of poker players.
She was among the media, Caesars’ top executives, Harrison County officials, local folks and out-of-town guests at the grand opening Wednesday of Caesars’ plush 503-room, $80 million, 10-story hotel and parking garage at the Bridgeport gambling complex.
During a short break from greeting guests Tuesday evening, general manager Barry Morris said, “It’s been a long time coming … But it meets my expectations as a casino hotel.”
Morris, always outgoing and gracious to guests, said he is more interested in what others think: “I would like to ask the people of Harrison County if this meets their expectations.”
Apparently it does.
Said one from New Salisbury (who spoke anonymously), “It’s great. Everything’s top class,” he said. “I’m sure we will be back.”
A comment heard often, before and since the opening: “I never thought I would see a 10-story hotel in Harrison County.”
Added to that, frequently: “especially not in Bridgeport.”
But it’s not such a far-out idea; in fact, Caesars’ isn’t even a first.
“My grandfather stayed at the inn at Bridgeport before it was washed away in the flood of 1937,” said Terry L. Miller of Elizabeth, who chairs the three-member Harrison County Board of Commissioners. “Now I’ve done that.
“I want to thank Caesars for making it happen,” he said during brief crowd-welcoming statements at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The hotel really puts the final touch on the entire property; the hotel clearly represents the end of the beginning,” Morris said, of plans and promises made some five years ago for the complex along the Ohio River in southeastern Harrison County.
Larry Townsend, former owner of the Bridgeport property and a partner in the Caesars’ venture, also sent a thank you, especially to those persons who voted in favor of the 1996 gambling referendum that eventually allowed the riverboat. And he complimented former councilman Greg Albers for his foresight in bringing the issue to a vote.
“At the time we won (the gaming license), I told you we would bring you the biggest and the best operator; I think we did that,” Townsend said to applause.
Caesars’ attention to detail also caught the eye.
“It’s very nicely appointed, with nice, earth-tone colors,” said John Waggoner, president of Hornblowers in New Albany, which handles Caesars’ marine operations. Waggoner was one of many guests who spent last Tuesday night at the hotel.
“I think by far it’s the nicest hotel of any gaming property in Indiana,” Waggoner added.
While the hotel — designed by Paul Steelman and Associates and built by Smoot Construction — marks the end of major improvements by Caesars, there’s more to come. For example, a pool and golf course.
An enclosed swimming pool, with a seasonal sun deck and 12-seat hot tub, is set to open early next year.
A championship golf course southwest of Elizabeth, near the South Central schools, is expected to open next summer.
With its new digs, Caesars expects its revenue to climb from a monthly average of $17 million to $18 million to $19 million or $20 million.
The hotel was 90-percent filled during the start-up weekend.
“We were pretty much to the rafters,” said Caesars’ spokesperson Judy Hess, adding the high numbers were due in part to the holiday weekend, the newness of the hotel, and guests here for the celebrity fund-raiser at Fuzzy Zoeller’s golf course at Sellersburg.
“I don’t want the world to think we will be at 90 percent every weekend in the beginning,” Hess said. “We expect about 50 to 70 percent during the three to four-month ramp up period.”