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Cleveland Rocks

The opening of Caesars' Horseshoe Casino

Cleveland Rocks

When I was a young lad back in Pittsburgh, we had a word for Cleveland. I won’t repeat it here. The reason we had that word was basically sports. More specifically, football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns were blood rivals when I was a kid, and when I was a teenager and a young adult, so naturally, we in Pittsburgh viewed Cleveland like, say, South Korea views North Korea. However, when I actually visited Cleveland for the first time in the 1980s for my former job with the railroad (yes, I’ve lived a storied life), I actually did not burst into flames as I had feared. In fact, I liked the town—it sort of reminded me a lot of Pittsburgh. Only in Ohio.

I’ve been OK with Cleveland since then, and particularly since the original Browns went to Baltimore to become the Ravens, causing Pittsburghers to shift their jihad-like hatred to that city. We’re fine with Cleveland now.

So, I was glad to see Cleveland enter the ranks of cities hosting my industry last month with the opening of the Horseshoe Casino. Caesars Entertainment heralded it with a video on the side of the building, showing Vegas showgirls. Thankfully, no auto accidents ensued.

It’s a classic building, home of the old Higbee’s department store. Higbee’s was an iconic Cleveland store opened first in 1860, when the Cleveland Indians were actual Indians. Its downtown flagship store moved to the new Higbee Building in 1931 and subsequently branched out to other locations, but eventually the chain was sold, and the building closed in 2002. The new Horseshoe casino is in the basement and first three levels of that building, a spiffy and gleaming replacement for space that had been home to bargain-hunting ghosts and, presumably, mannequins that came to life late at night.

The whole Cleveland media machine is cranking to record the coming of casinos, which, of course, gives the city what it never had before: something to do.

Hey, I’m kidding, Cleveland! You’re the best. You’re a Pittsburgh among Ohio cities.

But anyway, the Horseshoe opening is intriguing because it plops a new industry, ours, into a place it’s never been before—a Midwestern city in which the original main industry was… well, something that wasn’t casinos. (Someone should look that up.) Caesars hired mostly locals, employing thousands—many who had been unemployed, displaced when the bottom fell out of Cleveland’s original industry (whatever that was).

So, nine out of 10 dealers at the Horseshoe are regular Cleveland schmoes who never turned a card before comprehensive dealer training by Caesars, which included waterboarding, I’m told. No, seriously, it’s said they performed fabulously through the opening, and the Cleveland press is all atwitter about the new industry in town, offering everything from the usual casino-opponent quotes saying casinos will eat Cleveland’s young to analysis and education about everything “casino.”

For instance, Emily Hamlin Smith of the Cleveland Plain Dealer provided an in-depth look at the Horseshoe’s uniforms, and the meaning behind them. Smith interviewed Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist and author of the book You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You.

“Company uniforms, especially in a high-stakes business like a casino, are designed to project a certain image to the customer,” Baumgartner told the reporter. “The trick, however, is to deliver the message without customers realizing how they received it.”

The piece went on to examine the uniforms of the cocktail servers, modeled by knockout-gorgeous women. Now, as far as I can see, there’s no customer who’s going to wonder about the “message” conveyed by this clothing design. It seems pretty obvious to me, as it would if I ordered a cocktail from the pictured women. To me,

from a purely psychological standpoint, the design says, “smokin’ hot cocktail server.”

Screams it, in fact.

According to the analysis by the professional clothing psychologist:

“What they’re wearing: Gold satin corset/bustier with black satin skirt, black pantyhose and black flats.

“Why they’re wearing it: The look reflects the glitz and glamour of the casino experience, Baumgartner says. Plus, McBride adds, it serves as ‘eye candy’ for the casino’s male clientele.”

Well, duh.

Perhaps I should become a professional clothing psychologist. I seem to have a pretty good handle on it.

In any event, I’m planning a nice trip to Cleveland, where I will stay at a ritzy hotel near the Horseshoe, visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame if I can somehow get over the fact they just inducted Guns N’ Roses, and end up at the old Higbee’s.

I plan on wearing a Steelers shirt.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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