The Big Day

Written by Bill Toland on .

Five years, one month and two days after Gov. Ed Rendell signed Act 71 of 2004, otherwise known as the Gaming Act, Pittsburgh's casino, The Rivers, is about to become a reality.

It's been a long road. Act 71 was preceded by a decade of riverboat gambling talk. (Never happened.) Then came the passage of the law. (Took forever.) Then came the three-way race for a casino in Pittsburgh. (Also took forever). Then the "fix was in" for Harrah's and Forrest City. (Said Mayor Murphy.) Then came all those noisome Penguins fans in support of Isle of Capri. (Like Mark Madden). Then Don Barden and the Majestic Star somehow won the casino license. (Whoa!) Then there were a bunch of appeals and lawsuits from The Riverlife Task Force, the Steelers and Pirates, and the losing casino bidders. (Bummer.) Then there was concern Don Barden couldn't build his casino on time, and then there was concern -- well founded, it turned out -- that he couldn't build it at all. (Whoops.) Then Neil Bluhm saved the day. (Yay!)

... Guide to coverage: The P-G's Mark belko will have a story in Sunday's paper, telling us everything we need to know about slot machines. On Monday, expect a story about opening day, as well as a behind-the-scenes profile of the casino's general manager, Ed Fasulo.

... If you go: Expect lots of traffic on day one. Doors open at noon. Free concert at 8:30 p.m. Fireworks to follow.

And be sure to visit on Sunday and Monday for updates, photos and videos.

... this week was "crushing" for Don Barden. He got to see his casino open -- but it was no longer his:

"As Mr. Barden stood outside the casino's main entrance yesterday, he said the day was "crushing in a sense emotionally." But he added he took pride in seeing the casino completed largely in accordance with his vision. 'I promised first class and that's what people got,' he said."

... the casino's 93-person security force will be watching you if you show up this Sunday.

... The Rivers thinks it can take in $400 million in year one.

... The casino foes from No Dice Pa (who plan to stage a protest / press conference outside the casino on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.) say "we told you so":

"We said the promises of property tax "relief" were unrealistic. Five years later, my tax bill hasn't gone down. Gov. Ed Rendell boasts of reducing tax bills by an average of $200 while seeking to raise the income tax by an average of $250 per household. A shell game, perhaps, but not relief ... Enjoy your favorite Downtown or North Shore eatery or watering hole now. Many of them will close in the next few years, unable to compete with the Rivers Casino's glitz and discounted food and drinks."

Odd and ends

A computer hacker (and a former Mt. Airy Casino employee) tries to break into a casino computer ... The Donald squares off against his bondholders ... Pennsylvania's daily slots revenue exceeded $3 million in July ... It's getting heated in Ohio again ... Same is true in Baltimore, where they want to build a casino ... Same is true in New England.

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