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Review: Columbus’ Hollywood Casino ‘alluring’

Courtesy of Hollywood Casino

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My dreams of hitting it big at the brand-new Hollywood Casino on the west side of Columbus were dashed on Monday night during the grand opening, but it didn’t make the experience any less exciting. Drawn in by neon lights, massive television screens and the allure of winning some cash, I entered the casino with a sense of thrill and a little hesitation.
Aside from spontaneous poker nights in high school, my gambling experience is minimal, at best. I wanted to try out the variety of table games and slot play provided by the casino, and I was impressed with the assortment. The 475,000-square-foot casino, approved by voter referendum in 2009, has nearly 3,000 slot machines and numerous Vegas-style table games. Variety is king at Hollywood Casino, with four dining options, including a sports bar with television screens in every booth.
I arrived to the Hollywood Casino with $97 in my pocket and I was intent on not spending any more. Those $97 didn’t seem to go as far as I hoped, and with most blackjack table minimums at $25, my wallet started to feel light. I am slightly ashamed to say that I lost $24 in my first 24 minutes – the victim of various slot machines and video poker. I was ecstatic when my slot machine finally came alive with a win, and I instantly cashed out with a voucher for $10.25, which can be conveniently inserted into any other slot or video machine like cash.
I faced the most apprehension when finally taking the plunge and sitting down at a blackjack table. Table etiquette was far beyond me and I awkwardly put my cash on the table in exchange for my chips. I was the youngest person at the table by a few decades, but I found the dealers to be helpful and friendly.
The clientele on opening night was one of the most diverse groups of people I might have ever seen. It seemed as though every race, age group and income level were represented, and it was easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic atmosphere of wins and losses. In addition to the numerous ways to spend money, the casino did offer a few freebies. Entertainment was provided in the form of a singing group called Swagg, offering up covers of popular songs. Waitresses traversed the casino floor, giving out free coffee, water and soda.
My inexperience as a gambler showed, and I was at a clear disadvantage in the glitzy casino. The pure charisma of the casino is complemented with ornate decorations, bright lights and no clocks in sight. The overwhelming nature of the casino seemed designed to keep me gambling, with no sense of time to reel me in or windows to the outside world.
The importance of having a self-imposed limit when patronizing the new casino is essential. As I sat down at a specific machine or table, I prevented further spending by setting dollar limits each time. If you lack self-discipline, stay away from the Hollywood Casino. I got in my car with $63 less than when I had entered the building, but thankfully with most of my pride intact. My experience on Monday night was both captivating and financially disappointing, but I am sure that the next time I step through those casino doors, I will be far more prepared.

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