A controversial plan by the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers to bring casinos to Ohio got some competition last week when a local developer proposed a plan for a convention center hotel with a casino attached in downtown Cleveland.

Developer Jeff Jacobs urged civic and business leaders to oppose Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert’s plan to set up casinos in the state’s four largest cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo. The plan will be on the November ballot.

The plan would create a 1,000-room convention-casino hotel at a cost of more than $500 million, according to local reports. It would be built next to the planned convention center and medical merchandise mart in downtown Cleveland. 

Under the new proposal, Cuyahoga County or Cleveland would lease land to a developer to build the hotel. “Such a land lease combined with local taxes would more than double the local government annual revenue projected by the [Gilbert] proposal,” Jacobs said.

He said he would not develop the hotel, saying the project would likely attract the attention of large national developers such as MGM or Wynn Resorts.

Jacobs is an investor in MTR Gaming Inc., which operates casinos in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, both states that stand to lose gaming revenue if Ohio gains four new casinos as proposed by Gilbert and his partners, Penn National.

 “No private developer has accepted the risks associated with the creation of this missing piece of Cleveland’s convention/visitor infrastructure requirements,” Jacobs said. “Without such a development, Cleveland will not maximize its effort to draw these visitor dollars to the region. With the defeat of the Gilbert/Penn National casino proposal, public and private leadership in Northeast Ohio will be able to focus on a far superior project.”

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