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Phase II of Gilbert Cleveland Casino doesn’t match original drawings: Darcy cartoon

September 13, 2018

Phase II of Gilbert Cleveland Casino doesn’t match original drawings: Darcy cartoon

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It’s a safe bet that the long-promised ‘Phase II’ of Dan Gilbert’s Cleveland casino will not be built by him.

The original drawings of Phase II released in 2010, showed a gleaming modern facility built behind Tower City, along the river and across from “The Q” Arena.   In reality, Phase II actually looks like a For Sale by Owner sign

Bloomberg News reported last week that the founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers is looking to sell his casino properties in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit.   Gilbert has engaged Deutsche Bank and Credit Suissse to facilitate the sale, according to Bloomberg.

Gilbert’s Jack Casino, located in the converted former Higbee’s Department store, adjacent to the Terminal Tower, was supposed to be only a temporary location of the casino until Phase II, which was supposed to be Phase I, was built by 2013.

The Higbee location opened in 2012 under the Horseshoe Casino brand.  Ever since then, Gilbert repeatedly went on record saying he remained  committed to building Phase II.

In 2013 Gilbert tweeted @cavsdan:

(1 of 3) Phase 2 of Cleveland casino will be built.  In design phase now.  Very important to get feedback of customer experience from 1st phase.”

In 2014 Gilbert said his Rock Gaming company was “committed to build Phase II.  We paid $85 million for the land so we’re not going to watch weeds grow on it.”

It wasn’t until 2016, when Rock Gaming announced it was changing it’s name to Jack Entertainment, that the company began changing its tune on Phase II.   Gilbert and Jack Entertainment CEO Matt Cullen began talking about possible mixed-used development for the property because an additional gambling venue couldn’t be supported.

“We’re really  committed to the city of Cleveland.  We’re really focused on continuing to invest in the city,” Cullen said at the time.  “At this point our sense is that the gaming market is Northeast Ohio doesn’t support additional capacity.”

Timing right to cash out and buy a baseball team?

The Bloomberg report said Caesars Entertainment Corp is among the possible bidders for Gilbert’s casino properties.

MGM Growth Properties recently purchased the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield  for $1 billion.   So is Gilbert just looking to cash out because it’s sellers market?  Or is he looking to cash out to make another billion dollar purchase?

Writing for Crain’s Detroit Business, Bill Shea speculated on Gilbert possibly being interested in purchasing the Detroit Tigers.   

Selling the casino’s would clear the way for Gilbert to be eligible to buy an MLB team and would provide him the cash needed to buy the Tigers valued at $1.225 billion.

Mike llitch, the Little Caesars pizza chain co-founder, who bought the Tigers in 1992, died at age 87 in 2017.  Control of the team passed to his son Chris, via a trust.

“There been speculation that the family might sell the Tigers after Mike llitch’s death because they appeared to more his passion,” wrote Shea.

I had heard years ago that owning the Tigers had always been a goal for Gilbert.  I recall hearing what seemed like a wild story that Gilbert was so passionate about buying the Tigers that he had worked out a deal with lltich before he died, to eventually buy the team.    There’s been crazy stories in the past about Gilbert trading his Cavs ownership for ownership of either the Pistons or the Tigers.

Right now, it is a safer bet that Detroit loving Gilbert one day owns either the Tigers or Piston, than it is Phase II of the Cleveland casino is built.

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