Saturday, August 8, 2009

EARLY ADDITION: CASINO starring Dan Onorato as "Robert Deniro" ?

The HUDDLER went out to the new casino this week for charity. Organizers could not have picked four better charities, the Pittsburgh food bank, Urban league, Allegheny General Hospital, and the World War II veterans memorial. All worth while organizations.

So the HUDDLER pulled out some of that first Holy Communion money stashed in the mason jars, buried in the back yard, and decided to check out the action on the "NORTH SHORE".

First impressions, driving across the West End Bridge? What an UGLY building from the outside. It is BIG & BORING. Kind of reminds one of a really fancy warehouse with a beautiful atrium type thing in the middle. Who designed those huge "CASINO" signs? How about some curvy, colorful design? The lettering and color are almost identical to the "GATE" signs over at Heinz Field?

The HUDDLER went fashionably late, and still hit gridlock traffic, despite having several of Pittsburgh's finest working the traffic lights. (the HUDDLER wonders - actually HOPES that the Casino is picking up the tab for their services).

The HUDDLER was surprised to see that among the new construction - across the street from the front door, was a brand new surface parking lot? Operated by Kail parking. Doesn't this property have more value than parking? But at ten bucks a slot - this is a no brainer - better to pave it now, make cold hard untraceable CASH (the better to put in brown bags for elected officials) and wait for the bids to come in to develop the property right? Then the HUDDLER remembered that the same thing was going on with a little parcel between Heinz Field and PNC Park for almost a decade now ?

Once the HUDDLER was guided into the new parking garage it was relatively easy to find a free parking spot. (although if it was a Steelers game day, this would have cost the HUDDLER $50). The elevators were plentiful and fast, the HUDDLER was impressed with the sopranos, godfather, casino style music that was playing, with a pre-game pep rally beat to it, the HUDDLER expected to have to run thru a paper CASINO banner held by a couple of beautiful young attendants, just to get in the place. But no such luck. There were plenty of guest service attendants to check identification (you have to be 21 to be admitted), they also passed out neck lanyards with the Rivers Casino logo on it, (once again why couldn't they use that design on those ugly signs?)

The line for the players card was too long, so the HUDDLER decided to go without one for now, and will probably only get one to avoid paying for parking. The HUDDLER just isn't a big gambler, despite the fact Kenny Rogers "GAMBLER" is on the HUDDLER's MP3 player.

So the HUDDLER walked for a while, sometimes in circles, just checking out the place, the INSIDE is BEAUTIFUL. A much higher quality than the competitor's place down in Washington County. The HUDDLER was there once, and was not impressed. The place was busy but NOT PACKED. There were several bars, the HUDDLER was not real impressed, the bars being open less than 24 hours already had "clicks" forming. The Brooks Brother suit crowd had laid stakes over at a bar located in the glass atrium area with spectacular views of the river, and those sexy empty barges under the West End bridge. There were alot of them, along with tug boats (a reminder of how pour the economy is right now).

The Ohio river is very wide at this particular location. The HUDDLER hopes there are never any down on their luck gamblers who bet other patrons that they can swim the width of the river, trying to earn an extra 100 bucks to try and make some of their losings back. Because that river is WIDE! The HUDDLER brings this up, because the HUDDLER once witnessed a near drowning down at the former Board Walk one night, due to a similar bet. But then the HUDDLER also witnessed a guy jump from the 16th street bridge for a $100 bet as well.

Well after picking a bar to belly up to, it took a good twenty minutes to flag down a bartender and order a Jamie on the rocks, 9 dollars plus tip, not a bad pour but definitely not a high roller or neighborhood bar pour! The HUDDLER was expecting more, but hey it was a charity benefit right ?

Finally after rubbing elbows, and talking to some friendly faces, old friends, and new friends, the HUDDLER finally pulled out that first Holy Communion money and slid a twenty in one of the thousands of machines that colorfully populate the casino floor. The HUDDLER is NOT disclosing which machine or what type, because after a few minutes of getting acquainted the machine decided to give the HUDDLER a few hundred dollars !!

The HUDDLER doesn't really even know how to play these machines, and normally depends on a friend to explain minimum bets, bonus lines, and how to win? But after a small investment, the HUDDLER won big. The HUDDLER didn't need that friend to say take your money and run! The HUDDLER took a picture of the voucher as a souvenir and quickly found a machine to exchange said voucher for a few crisp hundred dollar bills.

With the HUDDLER's new found wealth, that Holy Communion money was placed safely inside the HUDDLER's secret hiding spot in the wallet. And with that it was back to the bar for an attempt to bribe that bartender for better service, a better pour, and hopefully a few free drinks down the road. Despite the HUDDLER's attempts, the service was still slow, and no free booze. But the HUDDLER did have fun, the crowds were pleasant, everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, and was loving life. It was Pittsburgh's version of the "Hamptons".

The Huddler by this time was getting a little hungry and decided to try and find dinner, the lines were jammed for "Andrew's" and the HUDDLER isn't a big fan of buffets, so there will not be a dining review. The Casino did have trays of appetizers floating around, it was like a trip to the Market Place at Giant Eagle, plenty of free food, one could eat dinner and dessert if one didn't mind eating in small bites. For those designated drivers, the Casino offers a complimentary beverage station stocked full of soft drinks and hot beverages. Perfect for sneaking in a small flask and mixing your own adult beverages as well ?

So with ones appetite and thirst taken care of, a pocket full of winnings, what more could ANYONE want? It didn't take too long for a nice young lady to sit down next to the HUDDLER, make small talk, and after about 5 minutes, the HUDDLER realized that the nice young lady was a member of the world's oldest profession. The HUDDLER was shocked, that the HUDDLER was prospected out by this young lady as a customer? LOL.

The HUDDLER tried to double those winnings, and wasn't very successful. All in all the HUDDLER left a winner. Traffic getting out was easy and painless. (although if this was a game day, parking would have cost $50 as the HUDDLER didn't gamble $80.) The HUDDLER stopped off at a local watering hole, to reflect on the evening, and meet some friends.

While sitting at the bar, singing an Irish tune, and seeing far less regular faces at the bar, the HUDDLER quickly realized that the new casino would be hurting alot of hospitality businesses, whether they be the local bar, eat n park, or chain restaurant. During these tough times, one only has so much First Holy Communion money to go around. Alot of folks will not be as lucky as the HUDDLER, and will be losing money they do not have to lose. The HUDDLER envisions many a domestic where one half of the relationship blows a pay check at the casino without the other halves approval.

Anytime there is gambling involved there are winners and there are losers, Pittsburgh will soon find out, who the winners are and who the losers are?

The HUDDLER knows that the casino has hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, and at the end of the day, the "house" always wins. The HUDDLER will say a special rosary for the City of Pittsburgh, that we as a community have not sold out our community to the "house"? Now more than ever, the HUDDLER sees why we need a community benefits agreement, to develop the area on the "NORTHSIDE" to produce jobs that pay a living wage, so that every other month or so, one can go down to the "NORTH SHORE" and try their luck at the casino?

** The HUDDLER is hoping for a more colorful post on one of the burghospheres more satirical blogs starring Chief Executive Danny Onorato, former Jerk of Courts George Matta (now a Casino executive), and other local "celebreties" as cast members of Pittsburgh's own production of "CASINO" the movie. For some reason the Huddler feels that casting Dan Onorato as Robert DeNiro is a mortal sin.**

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