Rivers Casino occupies a location to die for along the popular Three Rivers Heritage Trail System on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, where it blends bold views of the downtown skyline with a distinctive architecture that envelops guests in the beauty and excitement of the city’s revitalized Ohio River waterfront
Large windows are integral to the scheme, as is the al fresco dining at the gourmet steakhouse and buffet and the landscaped promenades and the amphitheater with seating built right into the riverbank.
The money behind the $850 million Rivers is Chicago real estate tycoon Neil Bluhm, who may be presumed to know a thing or two about the value of an address. - His Falls Management Company runs Canada’s Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. He’s also backing the new Sugarhouse Casino on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. - And on Pittsburgh’s North Shore the Ohio is the star attraction. Rivers is more than happy to bask in its reflection.
“It has a sophisticated, urban feel,” GM Todd Moyer says of the place.
A veteran gamer whose resume includes stints in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Moyer is charged with bringing revenues more into line with the forecasts that preceded Rivers’ opening last August and keeping it real with the competition at Meadows Racetrack & Casino 20 miles to the south in Washington, Pa. He came over in March from another popular riverfront casino, the Mississippi’s Diamond Jo in Dubuque, Iowa.
The battle at Rivers, he says, has been to erase the perception that it’s just another slot barn.
“We’re looking to provide entertainment for people,” he says. “We’re a great night out, a place to play a little blackjack, have dinner, maybe go to the buffet, hear a band.”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODYMusic is integral to this atmosphere of escape and Rivers throbs with it - live jazz, pop, reggae, oldies, classic rock - in the Drum Bar, Levels Lounge, at the sports bar called Wheelhouse Bar & Grill.
“It’s kind of like you walk from one vibe to the next, crossing all kinds of genres,” says Moyer. “We like to think of it as something for everybody.”
This summer saw the arrival of table games. The Pennsylvania Legislature had approved them in January. In March, Rivers filed for permission to expand the casino floor from 129,000 to 136,000 square feet. On July 8, it was the first of the state’s nine casinos to install them.
“That changed everything,” Moyer says. “That brought in a whole different customer segment. We’ve started seeing our F&B go up. It’s a whole different vibe. The place is even more alive now.”
Rivers led the state in table game revenues in July. The following month it expanded on this new weapon by bringing boxing to its waterfront amphitheater: a six-bout card co-presented by former middleweight and heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. and highly publicized in the local media.
The return of the National Football League season, a holy time in the Steel City, has been another promotional bonanza. Rivers has been hosting tailgate parties to take advantage of its location within shouting distance of Heinz Field.
“This city loves a winner,” says Moyer. “You wouldn’t believe how it comes alive when the Steelers are in town. What we say at Rivers is, ‘Everyday here is game day.’ We embrace it, like the rest of the city.”
Looking ahead he sees Rivers moving more aggressively to capture a share of the lucrative meetings and conventions trade while continuing to look for ways to exploit the advantages of the riverfront (outdoor weddings being one of many interesting possibilities).
Near-term, though, it’s still about getting the fundamentals right.
“We know a spotlight has been thrust on us with the addition of table games,” Moyer says. “It has people thinking of us in a whole new way. Our challenge is to provide a great experience and great customer service. We want to keep them coming back. We have to keep building on that foundation.”
RIVERS CASINO FACTSLocated at 777 Casino Drive, Pittsburgh, adjacent to North Shore Drive and State Highway 65/I-279.Opened Aug. 9, 2009, by Rush Street Gaming.
More than 130,000 square feet of casino space, featuring 2,954 state-of-the-art slot machines and 86 table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps and a 24=table poker room..
Dining choices include Andrews Steak & Seafood, Ciao, West End Cafe, Wheelhouse Bar & Grill and Grand View Buffet. Light snacks and/or live music are featured at Club 44Six, Drum Bar, Spiral Bar and Levels Lounge.
Riverfront amphitheater, designed for concerts and live sports events, seats 1,000. Amenities include free indoor parking, customer loyalty program (Rivers Edge Players Club), and package deals with several area hotels and motels.