Big Guy brings big ideas to Rivers Philadelphia; July 4 fireworks; Live! Pittsburgh salutes ‘Willy Wonka’
Justin Moore has big plans for Rivers Philadelphia.Chuck Darrow / Bettors Insider

Big Guy brings big ideas to Rivers Philadelphia; July 4 fireworks; Live! Pittsburgh salutes ‘Willy Wonka’

Customer service and safety will be a priority for Rivers Philly’s new regime—as will increasing the amount of attractions and gaming options.

Anyone who holds the title of GM at a casino (regardless of gender) can claim to be the “Big Guy” at that property. But in the case of Justin Moore of Rivers Philadelphia Casino, the description is literal as well as figurative. At 6-feet-8-inches tall, the St. George, Utah native stands head and shoulders above your average gaming hall chief executive. But it’s not just his height that Moore brings with him to the property that overlooks the Delaware River from its Fishtown perch. He also arrives with a “to-do” list that underlies a newfound aggressiveness when it comes to amenities and attractions.

During a recent chat, the 43-year-old Moore, who took over at Rivers in mid-April, outlined a number of strategies designed to engage a larger, non-gaming audience. But before he got into the fun-and-games strategies, he outlined what he considers his casino’s top priorities.

“The best, most profitable, successful casinos are known for three things: friendliness, cleanliness, and safety,” he reasoned. “We're actually focused on all three right now. We definitely have to improve in all three aspects, and we've already made a lot of strides towards that. So that's number one; you cannot have a successful business unless you do those three things properly.”

With those more mundane subjects addressed, Moore, who came to Philly from Rivers’ corporate sibling in Schenectady, N.Y., then launched into a litany of changes and additions that are on his agenda, all of which are predicated upon the premise that a casino can and should be much more than a place for gambling.

“The gaming is obviously the most important aspect of what we do here, but the casino in a community is so much more,” he said. “We really need to be a full-on entertainment destination. And entertainment comes in so many different forms.

“It doesn't have to just be music. It could be comedy, it could be events. It could be your favorite sports heroes are here. You know, just things that bring the community together. When a casino does that properly, patrons are then building memories inside the building that attach themselves to Rivers as a brand and as a casino.”

While getting people through the doors is obviously Moore’s priority, the first big event will be an al fresco affair.

Billed as a July 4 Block Party, the bash, which kicks off at 5 pm on Independence Day and carries no admission fee, takes place on a Delaware River pier usually used for casino valet parking (an amenity that has been suspended since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year). In addition to offering a prime vantage point for the 9:15 pm fireworks launched from the Camden side of the river, there is a full-slate of family-friendly activities including Corn Hole, giant Pong, giant Connect 4, giant Jenga, face painting and a balloon artist.

Guests can avail themselves of a variety of items from vendors including food trucks and they can boogie along to sounds provided by a DJ and the soiree’s featured act, an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band called Let’s Groove Tonight.

But Moore’s vision for Rivers goes well beyond celebrating Uncle Sam’s 245th birthday. For instance, he promised a more robust entertainment schedule for the casino’s 600-seat Event Center than has been seen in several years. Already on the docket is a series of monthly comedy shows, the first of which will be an Aug. 5 bill headlined by former Saturday Night Live cast member Kevin Nealon. Moore suggested other ongoing series will highlight various musical genres such as country and ‘90s grunge rock. He said he is also considering staging dinner shows with acts along the lines of a Frank Sinatra or “Jersey Boys” (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) tribute.

On the culinary front, Moore reported that the Geno’s cheesesteakery is scheduled to reopen by early next month and Lou’s Pizza will be revamped and rebranded. And he hinted he’s eyeing the addition of a new, unspecified outlet.

But don’t think that Moore is ignoring the raison d’etre for all gambling halls. He is also focusing on upgrading and expanding Rivers’ gaming options and noted his experience at Las Vegas gambling dens made him a big fan of one particular activity.

“I'm a huge video poker guy,” he offered. So . . . be on the lookout for some amazing changes. I worked in the Las Vegas video poker market for so long; I have a very good understanding of what video poker players are looking for. And we're excited to make some changes and bring some new titles and new poker cabinets to this property.

“And then on table-games side, we're looking at bringing in some new progressive table games and also some new technology.” The latter, he added includes Blaze Roulette, which features a tricked-out, LED-illuminated layout.

Nonetheless, Moore understands that all of his plans could be undercut by the misperceptions engendered by the facility’s 2019 name change from SugarHouse, which brought it in line with the other properties owned and operated by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming.

“We want everyone out there to know that Rivers Casino did not purchase SugarHouse,” he said. “We did not pick it up in bankruptcy court. We are one and the same; ownership did not change. We simply changed the name.”

Bombs bursting in air

Casino-sponsored pyrotechnics will fill the skies over Philly and AyCee this weekend.

The aerial pyrotechnics begin tonight at 9:45 with a display outside Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia. Down the Shore, a doubleheader is on tap with Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa kicking things off at 9 pm Sunday (the festivities include a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by American Idol finalist Mara Justine, a native of nearby Galloway Township). Forty minutes later, the action switches to Tropicana Atlantic City.

Live! Pittsburgh celebrates ‘Wonka’

The funnest casino promotion this month has to be the Live! Casino Pittsburgh campaign based on the 50th anniversary of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

All month, the casino is conducting a “Golden Ticket” giveaway for a gold Jeep Wrangler Rubicon filled with Sarris Candies. Other prizes include a European chocolate tour, season passes to Hersheypark and a year’s supply of Sarris chocolate.

Each day, participants can search for the five golden tickets. One will be located at the Sarris Candies store in Canonsburg, while the remaining four tickets are somewhere on the casino property. The five people who find the golden tickets will return to the gambling den on July 31 for a one-in-five shot at the Jeep.

Beyond the giveaway, various areas of the casino have been decorated with a Willy Wonka motif. Periodically, the “Oompa Loompa” song will play throughout the casino, heralding the beginning of an hour-long “Dompadee Doo Power Hour,” during which Live! Rewards cardholders will earn drawing entries at 10 times the normal rate. Prizes include the European chocolate tour and Hersheypark passes. For more info, click here.

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