Chicago’s first new casino in years, the Rivers Casino was built over a water basin to comply with the region’s riverboat regulations. Designed with the guest in mind, every aspect of the casino is meant to make visits stress-free, from the automated parking guide to the plethora of gaming, dining and entertainment options to accommodate a variety of moods, upscale or casual. The owner of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines is postponing plans for an expansion of the gambling establishment - the state's most lucrative, until it was forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic. Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen on Thursday announced the decision to delay the expansion at. Saying the tax violates the Illinois Constitution and state law, the owner of the Des Plaines casino has asked a judge to issue injunctions blocking collection of the tax. Rivers Casino4Fun online site offers a wide selection of popular casino games (with new games added regularly), daily casino bonuses, and the chance to share the excitement and celebrate your big wins with other players! Casino4Fun is a play-for-fun, entertainment only. Owner and operator Rush Street Gaming also owns Rivers Casino locations in Pittsburgh; Schenectady, New York and Des Plaines, Illinois. Read more about the rebrand on PBJ.com.
On July 10, the day Rivers Casino reopened after a week-long closure that also shuttered bars and restaurant dining rooms in Allegheny County, there were signs the North Side gambling complex was trying not to take unnecessary chances.
Like other entertainment venues operating under state and county rules, the casino is limited to half-capacity. Masks are required for patrons and workers, and smoking is banned. Plexiglas barriers have been installed at locations like the cashier’s booth, to shield staff and patrons from the airborne droplets carrying the virus. Barriers were also installed between some slot machines, where seating has been reduced to encourage distancing.
But there are no such barriers at the casino’s table games -- the more than 100 stations for craps, blackjack, roulette and more. And when a WESA reporter visited the Rivers on reopening day, he observed 11 people (including four casino employees) around a single craps table. Casino rules limit craps players to three on each side of the table, plus four employees, but that doesn't allow for social distancing—the 11 men stood or sat shoulder-to-shoulder.
Two veteran table-games dealers at Rivers Casino told WESA that they worry the lack of barriers exposes workers to unnecessary risk. It's at the tables, they said, where patrons are liable to spend the most time in close proximity to casino staff – typically well under 6 feet apart.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines Ownership
“Our safety is last,” said one of the two dealers, who both asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing their jobs.
Rivers Casino “just care[s] about the bottom line,” said the other.
A spokesperson for the North Side casino said it is following all state and county health guidelines. “We strive daily to meet or exceed all safety standards and to adapt quickly as new information becomes available,” said Jack Horner, in an emailed statement. “The health and well-being of our Team Members, guests and the Community is our top-priority.”
Rivers Casino Des Plaines Ownership
Rivers takes a number of precautions that include testing patrons’ temperatures upon entering the casino, as well as checking the temperature of each employee starting a shift. The casino also touts its HVAC system as an effective means of tamping down the virus' spread.
But the casino has acknowledged that three employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since it reopened June 9, following an initial three-month pandemic shutdown that encompassed businesses across the state. And both Rivers dealers who spoke with WESA said the addition of Plexiglas barriers to the casino’s table games would make them feel notably safer.
While the dividers are not mandated, some casinos around the country -- including the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill. -- have also installed them at selected table games. Since the pandemic began, transparent barriers have become ubiquitous at supermarkets, pharmacies and even convenience stores. Experts say there’s a good reason.
“We know that the virus can’t get through that barrier. So [barriers] probably do have benefit,” said Dr. Brian Lamb, an internal-medicine physician with the Allegheny Health Network. “It should be recommended that any time that you have people that are in close contact with each other, if you can provide some sort of additional barrier, more protection at this point in the pandemic is better than less.”
Lamb emphasized that while exposure for patrons of a given establishment might be relatively brief, and limited to a handful people, workers at a business like a casino might experience prolonged exposure to many more.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines Ownership
“These [workers] are basically day in, day out being exposed to people face-to-face, and so anything we can do to help protect these people is what we should be doing,” he said.
Dr. Philip Harber, a public-health expert at the University of Arizona, added that precautions like taking the temperatures of workers and patrons is by itself inadequate because so many people who are infected do not exhibit symptoms.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration also recommends that employers install barriers 'to ensure that workers do not pass potentially infectious respiratory droplets between each other,' according to an email from OSHA's regional office.
Table-games dealers at Rivers wear clear cloth masks, clear-plastic face shields, or both. But the dealers who spoke to WESA said the casino could better enforce distancing rules, which include limiting the number of players at table games.
“There’s no distancing anywhere,” said one dealer.
The dealers said that before the casino's June 9 reopening, Rivers held a staff training session on new practices to block the spread of COVID-19. Both dealers reported that casino general manager Bill Keena told staff at the training that he was “not afraid of the virus.”
The dealers said management also told workers that anyone who did fear the coronavirus should get another job, though one of the dealers also recalls managers saying they understood if employees were concerned about their safety.
Asked about this alleged episode, Horner declined comment. He also declined to answer a query about how distancing rules are enforced.
The trade group the American Gaming Association does not provide its members with detailed COVID-19 operating guidelines because the industry is governed state by state. However, spokesperson Casey Clark said, “We’re seeing all of our members in the American Gaming Association apply strict standards to ensure health and safety remains a priority not for just the customers but team members as well.”
PITTSBURGH--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rush Street Gaming announced today that Bill Keena, formerly general manager of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, has joined Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh as general manager. Keena and Rush Street opened Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in July 2011. The Chicago-area venue quickly became Illinois’ top-performing casino and has been ever since.
A 30-year casino veteran, Keena began his gaming career in 1988, after graduating from the University of Las Vegas. He joined Harrah’s finance department, where his responsibilities grew to include casino and hotel oversight as general manager of Harrah’s Laughlin, Nevada, and Harrah’s St. Louis, Missouri. Thereafter, he was promoted to regional president for Harrah’s, simultaneously overseeing four full-service casinos and resorts, two in Missouri and two in Iowa.
Rivers Pittsburgh marks Keena’s return to the Rush Street family. He rejoins the company effective immediately, pending approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
“We are thrilled to have Bill back and running one of our properties,” said Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming. “He is an exceptional leader, focused on providing the best customer experience, working closely with the community and fostering our Team Member culture.”
Keena succeeds Craig Clark, who recently left Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. “We thank Craig for his many years of service and wish him the best,” said Carlin.
Rivers Casino opened on Pittsburgh’s North Shore in August of 2009. It features more than 2,900 slots, 92 tables games, a 30-table poker room, nine distinctive restaurants and bars, a riverside amphitheater and a multi-purpose event center. Rivers employs approximately 1,700 Team Members and has been named “Best Overall Gaming Resort in Pennsylvania” for eight consecutive years by Casino Player magazine.
About Rush Street Gaming
Founded by Neil Bluhm and Greg Carlin, Rush Street Gaming and its affiliates have developed and operate successful casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Des Plaines, IL (Chicago area) and Schenectady, NY. By placing an emphasis on superior design and outstanding customer service, Rush Street Gaming has become one of the leading casino developers in the United States. Rush Street’s casinos employ approximately 9,000 Team Members and generate more than $1 billion in annual gaming revenues. For more information, visit www.rushstreetgaming.com.