ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - After much anticipation, the Tri-State's newest racino, Belterra Park, is finally open for business.
The facility is home to more than 1,500 video gaming machines, plenty of entertainment and it's a close ride from downtown and Northern Kentucky.
It's a great day for the Anderson Township area, but not so much for neighboring Kentucky.
Kentucky has a lottery and, of course, horseracing. But with the Horseshoe Casino less than a mile from the Kentucky state line and now Belterra Park just across the river, it's becoming harder and harder for Northern Kentucky leaders to watch dollars leave the Bluegrass State.
One by one, car after car made its way to Belterra Park for the grand opening celebration Thursday night.
"First night open. Just wanted to see what it looks like," said Gary Schanding of Villa Hills.
"I guess this is a race casino. We wanted to check it out tonight," said Sandra Schanding of Villa Hills.
Those cars are bringing curious gamers from far and wide. That's a problem for some local lawmakers.
"There's no two ways around the fact that it's an opportunity lost. There's jobs, there's revenue that can be generated from, not just expanded gambling, but other industries," said Rep. Adam Koenig (R)-Kenton, Boone and Campbell.
At least one of his colleagues across the aisle feels the same way, watching time and time again as new gambling facilities open so close to home just across the river in Ohio and in Indiana, with Kentucky missing out on all the benefits.
"We first begun serious discussion on gaming probably eight years ago. We predated Cincinnati's entry into the market. It's very, very disappointing," said Rep. Arnold Simpson (D)-Kenton.
Not being able to keep those dollars at home is starting to wear thin on the patience of those forced to cross the river to spend their dollars.
"We would probably stay in Kentucky if the casinos were allowed there. But, that's never going to happen," said Schanding.
For now, casino and racino gambling won't be a reality. But business leaders still see the opening of nearby facilities as an opportunity.
"It would be nice if something like this was on our side of the river. But let's face it, people that come to Belterra will also come to the aquarium. They'll also come to Mainstrasse. There's a whole slew of things in the region, and Northern Kentucky is part of that region. We will benefit even though we're not benefiting as much as we'd like," said Brent Cooper of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Koenig tells FOX19 that in his eight years in office, this kind of gambling is constantly on the agenda with bills being filed, but never being passed.