The director and chairman of the board of JACK Entertainment is optimistic in both Cleveland and the casino industry.

Matthew P. Cullen said that despite the effects of COVID-19, he plans to stay long term.

“I really love the bones of the city,” Cullen told Jewish News in an interview on Jan. 25, adding that he sees an attractive business environment. “We believe we can continue to see strong growth.”

In December, Cullen and CEO Mark Dunkeson took over a majority stake in JACK Entertainment when Dan Gilbert sold the casino developer and operator to the management team, the Cleveland Jewish News first reported on January 16. The company has annual sales of $ 400 million.

He pointed to local investments by JACK Entertainment in both the current renovation of the former downtown May Co. garage and the planned 12,000 square meter expansion of JACK Thistledown Racino in North Randall.

In the Racino parking garage, JACK Entertainment is renovating 425,000 square meters for around 670 parking spaces.

In North Randall, part of the a

Two-story $ 7.5 million smoking patio on each floor covering approximately 4,000 square feet according to architectural plans on file at North Randall. This annex is under construction and will open in the spring, said Cullen. An interior diner will also be converted into a play area there.

The Racino has thoroughbred races as well as the casino on approximately 125 acres in North Randall and Warrensville Heights.

Cullen said, although he has no plans to increase the number of casinos in JACK Entertainment’s holdings, “We will keep our eyes peeled for other opportunities.”

He hopes JACK Entertainment, which has relocated its headquarters from Detroit to the downtown casino, will act as a catalyst for development in Cleveland and has already shown interest in mastering the Public Square.

Cullen has worked in the civil, recreational, business, and conservation areas of Detroit.

“We have been active in Cleveland too, and we are going to be even more so,” he said, adding that he is also interested in development in North Randall, particularly the Amazon camp just across from JACK Thistledown Racino.

He praised his team members’ approach to pulling through COVID-19, which he recognized as a challenge for the casinos.

Operating at maximum capacity and with a curfew, which was due to be lifted on Feb.11, “makes it difficult,” he said. JACK Entertainment built in Plexiglas partitions and considered the need for social distancing on its floors.

Cullen has been with the company since 2009 when Gilbert founded the company. He previously worked for General Motors as General Manager, Economic Development and Business Services and lives in Greater Detroit. He said he “probably won’t” move to Cleveland but expects a visible presence.

Dunkeson joined the business in 2013 from the games industry.

There are 15 to 20 people on top management who are also shareholders, Cullen said.

“Management really owns the business now,” said Cullen. “That is always a good thing. The people who work day in and day out are the people who own the business. “