Rivers Casino

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Stand up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town!”

That was one of the chants shouted by protesters who circled the Allegheny County Courthouse Tuesday ahead of a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing for the Rivers Casino, which is operated by Rush Street Gaming, LLC.

The board is considering whether to renew the North Shore casino’s license, a process undertaken every three years.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Its name is Claudico, and it’s the first artificial intelligence (AI) program of its kind to take on humans in poker matches: 80,000 hands to be exact.

Four of the world’s top poker players spent two weeks at Rivers Casino. Three of the four pros had higher winnings than Claudico, but their $732,713 collective lead wasn’t large enough to be considered scientifically reliable.

John Marino / Wikipedia

The end of a three-year agreement between the Port Authority and the Steelers and Rivers Casino corporations that enabled T riders to reach Allegheny Station free of charge may upset the transit system's free fare zone. Without funds from either organization, the Port Authority must either pick up the tab itself or start charging riders who use the T stop to attend sporting events. Alex Zimmerman has been covering the story for the City Paper and joins us to discuss the issues surrounding the suspension of the deal. 

Zimmerman says the change is due, in part, to the Port Authority's desire to separate subsidies from advertising rights for the two stations on the North Shore:

"Port Authority went to [the subsidizing entities] and said 'We're happy to continue our agreement with you, but we want to retain ad rights.' ... The Steelers and casino aren't saying much about what their negotiating position is." -- Alex Zimmerman

Also in the program, local entrepreneur Mont Handley describes the peat moss substitute that he invented, Margaret J. Krauss tells an untold story about Pittsburgh during WWII, and Johnstown Tomahawks representative Chad Mearns talks about Johnstown's recent recognition as "Hockeyville USA."

Despite a bump in December, Pennsylvania’s slot machine revenues were down nearly 3 percent in 2014.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, nearly all of the state’s 12 casinos experienced growth in slot revenue last month, with the exception of Rivers Casino, which saw a .16 percent drop in revenue compared to December 2013.

While the overall casino revenue for February decreased 5 percent, the Pennsylvania table games had a bit more luck.

Table games at the commonwealth’s 12 casinos grossed $57.1 million this year — a 3.25 percent increase over February 2013.

However, Richard McGarvey, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesman, said this increase is not that impressive at second glance.

The Village Theater Company did not have enough money to break ground on the new cinema in Sewickley by its goal of June, but a new date can be set thanks to gaming revenues.

The state will award nearly $6.6 million in gaming revenues to 19 community and economic development projects in Allegheny County.

According to the Corbett administration, the projects will provide new opportunities for quality housing, business growth and job creation.

The $350,000 allotted to Brian Dugan, president of Village Theater Company, will go toward building a nonprofit movie theater.

The sixth annual Gaming Diversity Report from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board shows the number of minorities working in casinos continues to grow.

Statewide, 31 percent of the 16,644 casino employees are minorities. That’s up slightly from last year’s 30 percent. Diversity also continues to grow among management, executive and professional positions.

“This year we have 2,733 individuals; 63 percent are males, 37 percent are females and 21 percent are minorities, which is a good number,” said Mozelle Daniels, director of diversity for the Gaming Control Board.

Pennsylvania casinos experienced their first drop in slot machine gross revenue this fiscal year since the lucky 7’s started spinning in 2006.

Despite the nearly 2 percent drop in gross revenue, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reports gamblers spent more than $2.4 billion for the second straight fiscal year.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year ending June 30, slot machine revenue from the 11 Pennsylvania casinos totaled $2,428,840,653 — down from the $2,476,755,316 brought in last fiscal year.

A spokesman for the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh says 33 unfair labor claims made by union organizers have been withdrawn following a review by the National Labor Relations Board, and the casino hopes to resolve 17 remaining claims.

The month-old unionization effort of food service employees at the Rivers Casino was boosted with a bit of political clout on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution in support of the proposed union, which could band together some 800 workers at the North Shore gambling house.

The union would include waiters, banquet servers, floor workers and others spread out across the casino's five internal restaurants. The labor group Unite Here! would administer the union. A spokesman said the group has no experience organizing casino dealers or security guards.

Last week, workers from Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino marched to the facility, calling on management to recognize their right to organize. They then gathered in an employee cafeteria where workers claim they  were targets of intimidation by management.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Several dozen Rivers Casino workers, elected officials, union representatives and clergy members gathered on the North Shore Thursday to call on the casino management to allow employees to organize.

“We’re worried about some of the backlash, but at the same time we feel protected – we have a lot of community support," said Lisa Washington, a server at the casino’s Grandview Buffet. "We have a lot of support from our congressmen. We know we’re in for a long fight, but we’re ready.”