|By Mark Gruetze, The Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News |
Dec. 29--A hotel at The Meadows, a casino in Fayette County and new games are on tap for Western Pennsylvania gamblers in 2013.
Regulators will award the license for the state's 13th casino, as gambling industry leaders hope Americans have enough confidence in the economy to keep the slots spinning and the cards turning.
"We're a discretionary income business," Rivers General Manager Craig Clark says of casinos in general. "We're one of the first to be cut" when people have to reduce their spending.
In the first 11 months of the year, Pennsylvania casinos generated $2.9 billion in gambling revenue, an increase of 4.7 percent from the total through November 2011. With an eye toward increasing that figure again in 2013, casino executives plan new offerings to attract new players and keep familiar faces returning.
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin will open in the summer at the Fayette County resort, says Isle of Capri spokeswoman Jill Alexander. Isle of Capri, which operates 15 casinos in six other states, will manage Lady Luck.
It will have 600 slot machines and 28 table games but no poker room, Alexander says. The casino will have 450 employees.
Lady Luck Nemacolin will be a resort casino, meaning it will be open only to hotel guests and to people making a $10 purchase, such as food, a souvenir or a gift card. Managers of existing Western Pennsylvania casinos say they don't worry about competition specifically from Lady Luck.
"Nemacolin will have some minor effect, but I don't think it will be dramatic," says Sean Sullivan, vice president and general manager at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in North Strabane. "It'll be attractive to certain types of players."
Clark sees Nemacolin as more of a destination location, while most Rivers customers come from Allegheny County.
Officials are "working tirelessly" on a hotel that will be connected to the casino, Sullivan says. He expects groundbreaking in the spring.
The hotel will have about 200 rooms. Although about 1,000 rooms are available in nearby hotels, Clark says an on-site facility is a "critical component" for casino guests. "Meadows Hotel" will be built below the south parking garage, in an area now used for bus parking.
Work also is to start in the spring for a retail development tentatively called "The Street." It will front on Racetrack Road and include shops, restaurants and a bank. Tenants might be announced next month.
The casino recently remodeled its poker room and installed a new high-limit room.
Clark says Rivers' focus in 2013 will be on slot machines and promotions. The casino plans to add new slots and get new titles out faster. He says promotions will be bigger and more exclusive. The $300,000 "mortgage mania" promotion in January offers to cover the winner's mortgage payments for a year, up to $18,000, with secondary prizes of making car and credit card payments.
The casino will continue its emphasis on community involvement, he says. It will again be a partner with the Auto Show and plan a NASCAR event that will put winners in a NASCAR simulator.
"Our business is based in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. We're supported by the local community in a very significant way," he says.
A major decision for the Gaming Control Board will be awarding the license for a second casino in Philadelphia. Six companies are vying for the state's last Category 2 license, which allows a stand-alone casino with up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games.
Although Pennsylvania appears to have replaced New Jersey as the No. 2 gambling states, it faces competition from expansion in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and elsewhere.
The state Gaming Control Board will see that the approval process for new games is quick and efficient, a spokesman says. The board also notes that several casinos are adding entertainment and conference venues, hotels and additional restaurants.
Online gambling will remain the No. 1 topic. Supporters of federal legislation authorizing legal online poker pulled the plug on their proposal in mid-December, while pledging to try again in 2013.
A 2011 U.S. Department of Justice ruling says states may offer online games within their borders. Nevada has authorized operators of online poker site that are expected to begin operations this year, and Delaware seems poised to offer online slots as well as poker, roulette, blackjack and other games.
Last week, New Jersey's Legislature approved allowing online versions of any game offered in Atlantic City casinos. The bill was sent to Gov. Chris Christie.
California and other states are exploring legalization of online gambling.
Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or [email protected]
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