horseshoe casino's $3 million summer giveaway builds reputation

horseshoe casino’s $3 million summer giveaway builds reputation

It’s not often that a casino builds a reputation of generosity, but that’s exactly the case for Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati.
A man by the name of Kevin Lewis won a whopping $1 million at the new Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cincinnati. There was, however, one small problem: he was the wrong Kevin Lewis.  Kevin Lewis, the actual contest winner, was at his home when his fiancee watched the drawing on television and saw the wrong Kevin Lewis claim the prize.  It turns out the other Kevin Lewis is also African American, also in his 50s, also engaged, also lives in Cincinnati, and of course, also visits the Horseshoe Casino.

This mixup was part of the $3,000,000 Summer Giveaway promotion put on by the new casino, which opened March 4th this year. The first Mr. Lewis was present for the ceremony in which they picked his name. When announced, he hugged his fiancee and walked up to claim his life changing prize money with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Horseshoe officials didn’t realize their blunder until they had already posed for photos with the incorrect Lewis and the ‘big check’.

kevin lewis horseshoe casino 1 million dollar winner reputation opportunity

kevin lewis horseshoe casino 1 million dollar winner reputation opportunity

Of course, the incorrect Lewis genuinely believed he won the contest.  He filled out entry forms, they called his name, the casino employees shook his hand, and they put him behind the check.

“When I heard my name, I said God finally gave me a big win . . . a lot of screaming and happiness, being at the right place, at the right time,” said Lewis.

It was about 15 minutes later when someone realized that they gave one million dollars to the wrong man.  This put Horseshoe in a rather rough position.  They stated that what took place was ‘human error‘.  They had two quick identity checks for the winner, and the deep dive wasn’t completed until the check was written and the photos taken.  It became clear that the Kevin Lewis that accepted the money was the wrong man, and the contest rules clearly show that they had every right to take the prize back and award the winnings to the proper man.

However, Horseshoe did something that is hard to believe in this day and age: they decided to cut two checks for $1 million!

second kevin lewis horseshoe casino 1 million dollar winner reputation win

second kevin lewis horseshoe casino 1 million dollar winner reputation win

The gesture of shelling out a second cool million is very impressive for the casino, and it speaks well to their reputation, which, given their history, needs all the help it can get.  Building the casino itself has been quite controversial.  As I covered in a previous post, downtown Cincinnati was in a serious downturn roughly 12 years ago.  People stopped going downtown, businesses left, and it was a true black eye for the city.  The city started to make a turn for the better, and in November of 2009, Ohio voters passed a state constitutional amendment paving the way for casinos in Ohio’s four largest cities.  While the amendment passed receiving 53% of the vote, many were concerned that putting a place of gambling in the downtown that was being revitalized would create a negative impact on the city.

To date, that hasn’t been the case.  While unfortunately, I haven’t been to Horseshoe Casino yet, (a shame since it is less than five minutes from my house), it has received some great reviews from many of my friends.  There is also no question that the casino is raising money for the city. Since opening in March, Horseshoe has averaged roughly $20M per month in revenues, which is subject to a state gambling tax of 33%.

Horseshoe casino's million dollar reputation

Horseshoe casino’s million dollar reputation

While the casino brings in revenues to the city, that level of revenue would be in question if they were to damage their reputation and alienate loyal players by taking away a million dollar prize from a man who is crying tears of joy. This loyalty is especially important because there are three other casino options less than fifty miles away from the city of Cincinnati.  For the Horseshoe management, this smart decision seemed to be a no-brainer.

“This was our blunder,” said Horseshoe Cincinnati Senior Vice President and General Manager Kevin Kline. “So, consistent with our commitment to do the right thing for our guests, Horseshoe awarded a $1 million dollar prize to each of the men.”

Giving away five percent of your monthly revenue may be a costly gesture of goodwill, but frankly, it has gone a long way in building the reputation of Horseshoe in Cincinnati.  The story received national news on Good Morning America, for once offering news that casts a good light on a casino. Possibly more important than GMA is the positive word of mouth that has spread locally. I was at Subway yesterday, and the sandwich artist building my ‘club’ only wanted to talk about how great it was that the casino paid both men. She directly said that she would be there for sure during the next giveaway in September.

Kudos to Horseshoe. They made a mistake that cost them seven figures, but managed to turn it into a feel good story, not just for the country, but for locals in Cincinnati who are now more excited to try their luck at the uniquely generous casino.