Initially viewed as the long shot in this three-horse race, Fitzgerald casino owner Don Barden emerged from the pack by winning Pittsburgh’s lone casino license and earning the rights to build a slots parlor on the North Shore.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted in favor of Barden’s PITG Gaming, the local incarnation of his Majestic Star casino chain, which bested its two better-known competitors: Isle of Capri Casinos, which had teamed with the Pittsburgh Penguins to propose a casino and new hockey arena, and Harrah’s Entertainment, which partnered with Cleveland’s Forest City Enterprises on a Station Square casino plan.
Harrah’s had the biggest industry name, and Isle of Capri was the choice of thousands of sports fans because of its ties to the hockey franchise, but in the end it was Barden who had the best proposal, as determined by the gaming board.
The Pennsylvania license allows Barden to offer up to 5,000 slots.
PITG won’t build a temporary casino, as Isle of Capri and Harrah’s would have, instead opting to concentrate full bore on a permanent, $450 million facility between the Carnegie Science Center and the West End Bridge. Plans call for the 400,000 square-foot casino to house a cylindrical glass atrium, four restaurants, three lounges, bars, shops and, of course, rows and rows of slot machines.
Construction should take 14 months, meaning it will be open by spring 2008, although the gaming board itself has questioned that ambitious timetable.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board issued 10 other casino licenses. Five of them, including Barden’s, are for stand-alone slot casinos.
The other six are for casinos at racetracks, which will also be able to operate up to 5,000 slots.