A little after 6 a.m. Tuesday, Mike McGlynn was signing up for his Live! Rewards players card inside the area’s newest $150-million casino.
He made the hour-long trip from Johnstown to visit Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Hempfield Township for the highly-anticipated grand opening inside Westmoreland Mall.
“I wanted to come out early so I didn’t have to stand in line for a while,” McGlynn said.
Though there wasn’t a long line to enter, more than two dozen early birds arrived for the 6 a.m. opening, ready to try their luck at the casino’s 750 slots and 30 live-action table games.
McGlynn said he is excited to now have a casino closer to where he lives.
“Whenever you have to drive a long way, you are usually tired,” he said.
McGlynn said he was looking forward to playing “all the slots.” Looking around the 100,000-square-foot facility, he said, “This is beautiful here.”
As customers entered the casino Tuesday morning, they were directed to pass through a contactless thermal camera at the entrance which scans guests for body temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The casino has a number of safety measures in place amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic through its “Play It Safe” plan — which requires masks to be worn at all times and focuses on social distancing and repeated cleaning of high-traffic areas, slot machines and table game equipment. Plexiglass separates players and dealers at both slots and table games to provide additional protection.
The casino is operating at 50% capacity per state guidelines, but officials say they will continue to monitor crowds even at below half-capacity to ensure maximum safety.
Christine Steinert of West Mifflin arrived shortly after 6 a.m. “just to check it out, and to see what it was all about.”
“We go to the Meadows and the Rivers,” she said, while waiting in line to sign up for a Live! Rewards players card. “We wanted to see what kind of games were here.”
Steinert was expecting there to be a line to get into the casino when she got there, but General Manager Sean Sullivan said he wasn’t surprised that just over two dozen arrived at 6 o’clock in the morning for the grand opening.
“One, it’s very early. And two, people are still nervous out there,” Sullivan said. “But I think what they see with us...is that we are extremely safe.”
However, after months of construction and planning ahead of the casino’s grand opening, Sullivan is able to breathe “a bit of a sigh of relief.”
“It’s like we made it. It’s exciting,” Sullivan said. “Everything came together, and nothing bad happened. The sun will come up, and everybody can feel good about what they accomplished.”
Guests have the option to dine at family-friendly Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen + Bar, which also welcomes guests under age 21, located on the first floor. Inside the gaming floor is a 45-foot LED video screen that enables guests to view live sporting events from two levels of the facility. At the bottom floor is a bar with seven TV screens and a sportsbook through FanDuel. The second floor includes Sports & Social Steel City, a 445-seat restaurant with two bar areas — including a variety of interactive social games, such as a four-lane bowling alley, a golf simulator, ping pong, shuffleboards, darts and more.
Officials expect the casino, owned by Maryland-based The Cordish Companies, to generate more than $188 million in annual economic impact, with an additional $148-million impact from construction, creating 500 permanent jobs. The project will also bring in $47.5 million in annual tax revenue.