PGCB Approves Rivers Pittsburgh’s Petition To Remove 302 Slots Machines

Written By Corey Sharp on April 24, 2024
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh logo underneath a handwritten message that says

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has granted Rivers Casino Pittsburgh permission to make significant changes to its gaming floor. The permission came during the PGCB’s monthly meeting on Wednesday.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh has been approved to remove 302 slots from its location.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is the fifth casino since last June to request the removal of slots to the PGCB. While the facility acknowledged needing newer machines, it also blamed Pennsylvania skill games for the reduction.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh removing older slots to accommodate players

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh has the third-most slots in the Keystone State with 2,283, behind Parx Casino and Wind Creek Casino. Even with the reduction of 302 machines, the property will still maintain third spot with 1,981 slots. It will remain slightly ahead of Live! Casino Philadelphia’s count of 1,967.

Assistant general manager, Andre’ Barnabei, spoke in front of the PGCB and cited the demand for a chunk of slots the property currently has isn’t matching the supply.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh has 520 machines that have been on the property since it opened 14 years ago. Any machines it has that are seven years old or newer have outperformed older games by 55%. The average age of the units Rivers Pittsburgh plans on removing are 11 years old.

“The number of units does not determine or drive the revenue,” Barnabei told the PGCB. “It’s the guest’s choice, the guest’s preference in what they choose to play.”

Barnabei later used an analogy to describe Rivers Pittsburgh’s gaming floor.

“Our slot machine floor is similar to a car lot,” he explained. “You can have a car lot that can run for blocks and blocks. But if you don’t have the right cars on the lot, you’re not going to sell anything.”

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh plans to reinvest in gaming floor this year

Barnabei confirmed to the PGCB that Rivers Pittsburgh plans to replace the old machines with new ones at some point in 2024.

The property anticipates a reinvestment of more than $2 million, that will include newer and bigger slots.

Rivers Pittsburgh is going to remove the smaller slots with the following dimensions:

  • Height: 54 inches
  • Width: 23 inches
  • Depth: 16 inches

It’s going to replace the above machines with other ones with the following dimensions:

  • Height: 112 inches
  • Width: 53 inches
  • Depth: 46 inches

Barnabei said that Rivers Pittsburgh will not be able to replace all 302 machines with newer ones. However, it will use up all of the $2 million allotted for improved slots.

Rivers Pittsburgh has tentative plans to start the project in early June and finish it before the end of July. It also does not plan on any staff reductions as a result of the project.

Pennsylvania skill games is a reason for slot machine reduction

The removal of slot machines has been a common trend among Pennsylvania casinos. Harrah’s Philadelphia removed nearly 150 slots last July because of similar concerns.

Two mini-casinos, Hollywood Casino Morgantown and Lady Luck Nemacolin, took away a combined 49 slots in August. A month later, Mohegan Pennsylvania reduced its count by 120 slots.

Mohegan Pennsylvania openly bashed skill games as a reason for the decline in slots.

Rivers Pittsburgh’s attorney, John Donnelly, did the same in front of the PGCB.

“I’m a big advocate of brick and mortar casinos,” Donnelly said. “They create capital, they create jobs and they improve neighborhoods. A prime example is Rivers Casino Philadelphia moving into the Fishtown area. It completely changed that neighborhood… I know skill slot machines do none of that.

“Let’s be crystal clear. Those so-called skill slot machines are slot machines. They are defined under the Gaming Act in Pennsylvania dead on as a slot machine, which should be regulated by this board. It walks, quacks and waddles like a duck. They’re ducks.”

Donnelly presented evidence of Rivers Casino Portsmouth, in Virginia, hovering between $14 and $15 million in monthly revenue. Skill games had been proliferating across the state there, too. However, since Virginia banned them in November of 2023, slot revenue has climbed and exceeded $19 million last month.

Skill games appear to be heading towards regulation, with multiple bills in place and Gov. Josh Shapiro proposing a 42% tax in his FY budget.

While the impact is unknown in Pennsylvania, skill games have certainly stirred the pot in the gambling industry.

Photo by PlayPennsylvania
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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