Racism alleged against Rivers Casino

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An Allegheny County councilwoman wants answers from Rivers Casino after receiving complaints the venue is unfriendly to black promoters and patrons.

In a letter dated Aug. 6, Amanda Green Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights, asked Rivers general manager Craig Clark to explain why a number of events aimed at the black community have been cut short, canceled or overcharged by the casino.

"There have been allegations of race discrimination," she said. "Constituents have called me or written me e-mails about things they have seen going on over there that they say are just racism."

In her letter, she highlighted a July event organized by black motorcyclist club Pittsburgh Ruff Ryders that was shut down early by casino officials, supposedly because of overcrowding. Why didn't the casino just close the doors, she asked, instead of ending the party and making everyone leave?

In another case, historically black fraternity Omega Psi Phi was charged $15,000 in 2012 to host a Labor Day weekend event in the casino's ballroom, far above the normal fee, Ms. Green Hawkins wrote. The casino has also shut down regular events that are popular with the black community, including boxing matches, boxing coverage on bar televisions and "Casino Royal Nights," an event hosted at the casino's Drum Bar by black promoter Jay Legacy.

"In effect, the casino will not conduct or hold any event that attracts or caters to a large African-American audience, and none of the Rivers Casino's upcoming events are designed to attract a cross-section of its patrons," Ms. Green Hawkins wrote in her letter.

Mr. Clark could not be reached for comment, but a casino representative said the general manager is willing to discuss the matter with the councilwoman.

"Rivers Casino already has reached out to Councilwoman Hawkins' office to schedule a personal meeting with our general manager, to address any misunderstanding, and to correct the record," casino spokesman Jack Horner said.

Ms. Green Hawkins, who is also the civil and human rights director at United Steelworkers, wrote the letter on her council letterhead and intends to use the power of her office find out what's going on.

But if her suspicions are borne out, the casino could be in trouble with powers far greater than she, the councilwoman said.

"If these accusations turn out to be true, they're violating the law," she said.

"Their problems will go beyond what I can say as a council member and can point and shake my finger at."


Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497.


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