- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

CLEVELAND — Another casino linked to Donald Trump is struggling for business.

There were vast banks of empty slot machines, craps pits and poker tables Tuesday on a lunchtime walk-thought of the JACK Cleveland Casino, located a stone’s throw from the Quicken Loans Arena where Republicans have gathered this week to nominate Mr. Trump as their 2016 presidential nominee. The casino food court stood virtually empty and there was no waiting for any of the banks of ATM machines by the casino entrances.

A floor monitor said a combination of factors had led to a sharp drop in daytime traffic, most notably the heavy security and restricted access that have largely kept the city blocks around the convention site limited to delegates, journalists, vendors, protesters and the police assigned to protect them.

Many of the downtown workers who dropped by to gamble on their lunch hour are taking the week off, the monitor said, speaking on background because he wasn’t authorized to speak for the casino. In addition, the busloads of seniors from the suburbs and beyond who make up a big percentage of the daytime traffic can’t get through.

In addition, the first-place Cleveland Indians decided it was wiser to be out of town during the convention, depriving the casino of a regular influx of gamblers before and after home games. The Indians, who last played a home game July 10, followed up the four-day All-Star break with a nine-game road trip and won’t be back at Progressive Field until July 26.

Mark Tricano, senior vice president of operations of Northeast Ohio for JACK Entertainment, acknowledged to Crain’s Cleveland Business that the casino was braced for a drop in traffic this week, but that the casino and other downtown businesses will be the winners in the long run because of the exposure Cleveland is receiving.

“We are expecting to have significantly negative impact on traditional business this week just because of a lot of the traffic challenges that are presented with the RNC,” Mr. Tricano told the business publication. “But we are optimistic that over the long term, the benefits of getting worldwide exposure for the city will more than help make up for that.”

Even with no convention floor business until the evening, there appeared to be few delegates from the GOP convention Tuesday who wandered over to the casino to get in a quick hand of poker. Croupiers stood idle at a string of tables, and whole walls full of electronic slots games endorsed by the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Brittany Spears, Willy Wonka and Wonder Woman were idle.

Employees said the nighttime traffic is better, but still say the convention hasn’t brought in a big influx of business.

JACK Cleveland Casino announced before the convention open that it was making it as easy as possible for the convention hordes to have a little gambling fun. The casino is being kept open around the clock and received permission to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. from Tuesday until Friday morning.

In addition to bourbon cocktail and beer specials, the casino also is offering a Pink Elephant martini.

Mr. Tricano told Crain’s that it’s “business as usual” for JACK Thistledown Racino, a 15-minute drive from the downtown casino in suburban North Randall.

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