Casino sets month of parking for free
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It might not be on par with free drinks. But the Rivers Casino will offer customers at least one perk during its first month of operation -- free parking.
But their luck could run out after that.
At this point, the North Shore slots venue, scheduled to open Aug. 5, will provide free parking in its massive 3,872-space parking garage for the first month as a "gesture of goodwill," General Manager Ed Fasulo said yesterday.
Officials also are hoping the freebie will help to mitigate traffic backups and minimize frustration during a period in which the casino expects to attract large crowds eager to check out the venue.
But beyond that first month, casino officials still haven't decided whether they will charge customers to park or allow them to continue to do so for free. The garage will be equipped with gates and pay stations just in case.
Mr. Fasulo said it was not unusual for casinos in urban locations to charge patrons for parking.
Complicating matters in Pittsburgh is that the casino will be located next door to Carnegie Science Center and about a block from Heinz Field, where there are charges for parking. In fact, the casino currently is working to finalize an agreement with the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh to provide parking for some fans on football game days, Mr. Fasulo said.
Another factor in deciding whether or not to charge is the state's 55 percent tax rate on casino revenues, Mr. Fasulo said. The high tax rate "causes you to rethink traditional operations, to give consideration to every aspect of the business," he said.
If the Rivers Casino decides to charge for nonvalet parking, it will be the only casino in the state to do so, said Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the state gaming control board. All others, including the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, offer free parking. Some have garages, others don't.
Mr. Fasulo sees the Rivers Casino's covered parking garage and the elevators that will deposit patrons right onto the gambling floor as "an added convenience for our guests. We believe that has some value."
First Published May 5, 2009 12:00 am