With the official groundbreaking on May 29, construction of the $400 million Baltimore Horseshoe casino is moving “full steam ahead,” said casino official Alex Dixon.
“The groundbreaking is a tremendous first step in bringing the physical building to fruition,” the 32-year-old said. “It’s ceremonial in nature but provides a lot of motivation to the team.”
Looming legal challenges alleging potential environmental risks briefly halted construction of the 335,000-square-foot complex, but such delays are not unexpected, Dixon said, and the project is on track for its grand opening in the summer of 2014.
“Every project of this size is going to have stepping stones and so it’s par for the course to have road blocks,” he said. But, for the most part, “the people we can identify in the community have been warm and accepting and have been rooting for us.”
Dixon, who was recently named vice president and assistant general manager of the new facility, played an integral role in courting investors to finance the project. Dixon first visited Charm City as a 15-year-old, on a college tour of Morgan State University. And, as a student athlete at Howard University, in nearby Washington, D.C., he often came to the city to play against the MSU football team, so he was familiar with the city.
“In that process, we were very much cheerleaders of the growth prospects in Baltimore and that resonated with investors,” he told the AFRO.
But even as Baltimore’s prospects lured investors, the casino’s potential benefits also lured local supporters. Those cheerleaders include state and city officials such as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was on site for the groundbreaking on Russell Street.
Among those expected benefits is the development of South Baltimore, the entryway to the city for visitors coming from Washington, D.C., Virginia and other southern states.
“Where we’re located gives us the opportunity to provide a new gateway to Baltimore,” Dixon said. “We are literally at the doorstep of opportunity.”
Horseshoe Baltimore is expected to generate more than $275 million annually in gaming and revenue and taxes for the state coffers, and $32 million annually for Baltimore City—welcome revenue in a still challenging economy. And developers have pledged to create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs. CBAC Gaming, LLC, the Caesars-led consortium that is developing the casino, is paying a city staffer to help fill those employment slots, and part of Dixon’s job is to oversee that hiring process.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than to help offer someone a job. And doing that 1,700 times over will be even more rewarding,” he said.
Before joining Caesars in 2008, Dixon served in New York, London and Los Angeles as an analyst with Goldman Sachs & Co. and in Las Vegas as an associate with Silver Pacific Advisors, LLC.
During his time at Caesars, he served in several leadership positions, including the director of planning and analysis for such high-profile Las Vegas casinos as Paris, Bally’s and Planet Hollywood and as chief of staff to Caesars Entertainment President of Enterprise Shared Services John Payne. In those roles, he oversaw capital and operating budgets, human resources matters and regulatory compliance issues as well as communications, operations and information technology.
The Howard University graduate said, however, that his current position is the answer to a dream.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Dixon is a third-generation casino employee—his grandmother was a housekeeper and his dad also worked in a gaming club.
“It was always my dream to help run one of these casinos,” he said.
Dixon’s current job profile includes working with General Manager Chad Barnhill to ensure the casino is “operationally ready,” doing outreach to local businesses that wants to partner with the casino and working with the design and construction team to “ensure the facility comes to life.”
The gambling emporium—the first Horseshoe Casino along the Mid-Atlantic/Eastern seaboard—will feature a 110,000-square-foot gaming floor with slot machines, table games and “a World Series of Poker” room. The complex will also feature two outward-facing restaurants, a 20,000-square-foot “Taste of Baltimore” food hall and three lounges.
“[Visitors] will walk away from this facility saying. ‘This is not a generic box that could be found anywhere in the country; it is unique to Baltimore,’” Dixon promised.