Rivers Casino gives back to ‘neighbors’…$1 million each to Hill, North Side

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The Rivers Casino celebrated its one year anniversary by giving away $2 million. And General Manager Todd Moyer wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Yeah, this is fun,” he said at the Aug. 9 presentation. “We’ve given away millions in winnings and prizes, but this is different. It feels good to see a direct benefit of economic development coming to our neighbors.”

Moyer noted it was a great first year, giving funds to the Penguins, going from zero to more than 1,400 employees and generating $125 million in tax revenue. But that, he said is the past.

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PROMISE KEPT— Members of the Hill District and North Side community groups, churches and development entities join state Rep. Jake Wheatley in accepting two $1 million checks from the Rivers Casino during its Aug. 9 anniversary celebration.

“Now we’re looking ahead to supporting key neighborhoods,” he said. “We said we’d be great neighbors and we are.”

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Commissioner Kent McCabe reminded the audience that none of this would have happened without former owner Don Barden, who began the casino development four years ago. Barden promised $3 million in casino revenue would go to the Hill District and the North Side as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Consol Energy Center, which officially opened last week.

“This is the culmination of the promise made to us by Don Barden four years ago,” he said. “It was picked up by (current owners) Neil Bluhm and Greg Carlin, and they didn’t have to do that—which says a lot about them.”

Joined by Moyer and representatives of various Hill constituencies, including Rev. Glen Grayson, city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, CORO Executive Director Sala Udin, Marimba Milliones, Kim Ellis and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, accepted the $1 million donated to the neighborhood.

“I want to thank the community groups and individuals who stood up years ago and helped make this happen,” Wheatley said. “They should be celebrated.”

When asked how the funds will be used or who will be able to access them, Wheatley said that has not yet been determined.

“Right now, it’s going to be held in trust in the Hill District Credit Union,” he said. “In the original licensing agreement, it said the funds were to go to a development entity in the Hill, but that doesn’t mean any CDC or faith-based entity can use it for their own project. It has to benefit the whole community.”

Conversely, the other $1 million went directly to the Northside Leadership Conference. Board chair Tony DiPardo said half of the funds would be dedicated to business development in the three business corridors—Western Avenue, Federal/North and East Ohio Street. The other half would go to residential development.

He said committees are still being formed to review development proposals, but the funds are already being put to good use.

“We’ve already used the funding to leverage another $600,000 in federal development grants and have an application pending for another $300,000,” he said.

The Rivers Casino will pay a total of $3 million to each neighborhood. Payments to the North Side will stretch out over three years, while payments to the Hill District will be made over five years.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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