‘American Idol’ winner Taylor Hicks to perform at ThistleDown opening

Beacon Journal staff report

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Taylor Hicks as "Teen Angel" in the touring production of Grease. (Photo by Larry Busacca)

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks will perform at two exclusive concerts to help celebrate the opening of the new ThistleDown Racino, Rock Ohio Caesars announced Tuesday.

The new gambling facility in North Randall will open to the public at 5 p.m. April 9.

Hicks, who is now headlining at the Paris casino in Las Vegas, will perform for Total Rewards members on opening night and again April 12, the company said.

Rock Ohio Caesars, a joint venture between Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment, has transformed the main building at the horse track into a gambling parlor featuring about 1,150 slots-like video lottery terminals.

Rock Ohio Caesars said it has invested about $88 million in the VLT project.

ThistleDown will continue to offer live racing at the track from April through November, and simulcast racing year-round, the company said.

“We’re excited about so many things as the grand ‘re-opening’ for ThistleDown approaches,” racino General Manager Rick Skinner said in a prepared statement.

“We’ve created 700 new jobs in this community to support these additions to our business. It is thrilling to see our new gaming floor and amenities take shape while we also prepare for our live racing schedule to start on April 19.”

ThistleDown will feature 57,000 square feet of gaming space.

The facility will have an outdoor patio with VLTs where smoking will be permitted — a first-of-its-kind amenity in the state, the company said.

There also will be several specialty dining and nightlife options.

The racino will be open 24 hours a day and offer free parking with a shuttle service. It will be part of the Caesars Total Rewards program, which provides benefits for members.

ThistleDown will be the second racino to open in the state. Scioto Downs in Columbus opened last June.

The news release from Rock Ohio Caesars also noted that the company still has an option with the state to relocate the racino “but neither a decision nor a timeline has been determined at this time.”

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