Eighty people stood in line for the official opening of table games at Rivers Casino at 6 a.m. today, and another 200 playing slot machines pounced once the new section opened.
"Six tables in the poker room were full and people were screaming at the craps table -- you couldn't have written a better script," said the casino's general manager, Todd Moyer.
The new offerings at the North Shore casino include 86 table games, including a poker room with 24 tables, blackjack, craps and roulette.
Table games were also being launched this morning at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County and at Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie.
"I was talking to people, and they were wearing it as a badge of honor to be the first to ever play the tables," Mr. Moyer said.
Rivers Casino security had roped off the table gaming area until it became officially licensed at 6 a.m., and gamblers began streaming in once the ropes were dropped. Since the casino is open around the clock, the section "will never close again," Mr. Moyer said.
State legislators approved table gaming this year -- four years into the state's embrace of legalized slots -- to help plug the commonwealth's chronic budget deficit. Its share of table games revenue will go directly into its general fund, unlike slots revenue, which is mostly applied to property tax relief.
The Innovation Group, a consultant that did projections for a group of casino operators, estimated that by 2012 table games will generate $865 million a year overall and $103 million a year in tax revenue for the state.
Pennsylvania keeps 14 percent of table games revenue. Host counties and municipalities each get 1 percent.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.