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updated: 7/19/2011 2:38 AM

Thousands flock to new Des Plaines casino

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  • Southbound River Road traffic backs up to just south of Howard Street during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.

       Southbound River Road traffic backs up to just south of Howard Street during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • A police officer directs drivers as traffic backs up on River Road north of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.

       A police officer directs drivers as traffic backs up on River Road north of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Des Plaines officials, actor Jim Belushi, third from left, casino owner Neil Bluhm, fourth from left, and other dignitaries cut a ceremonial ribbon at today's grand opening of the Rivers Casino.

      Des Plaines officials, actor Jim Belushi, third from left, casino owner Neil Bluhm, fourth from left, and other dignitaries cut a ceremonial ribbon at today's grand opening of the Rivers Casino.
    Courtesy of the City of Des Plaines

  • Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan rallies the crowd gathered for the grand opening this morning of the Rivers Casino. Thousands of people lined up to be among the first in the new casino.

      Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan rallies the crowd gathered for the grand opening this morning of the Rivers Casino. Thousands of people lined up to be among the first in the new casino.
    Courtesy of the City of Des Plaines

  • Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan greets gamblers Scott Rose of Lindenhurst and Fran Derkowitz of Philadelphia during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday.

       Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan greets gamblers Scott Rose of Lindenhurst and Fran Derkowitz of Philadelphia during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • People cross the skybridge from the parking garage as motorists are turned away because it was at capacity on opening day of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.

       People cross the skybridge from the parking garage as motorists are turned away because it was at capacity on opening day of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Cheerleaders greet gamblers as they enter the Rivers Casino on opening day Monday in Des Plaines.

       Cheerleaders greet gamblers as they enter the Rivers Casino on opening day Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Players enter the lobby during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.

       Players enter the lobby during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Southbound River Road traffic backs up to just south of Howard Street during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.

       Southbound River Road traffic backs up to just south of Howard Street during the grand opening of the Rivers Casino Monday in Des Plaines.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

The opening day hype may have been too successful.

Sweltering heat, long lines, traffic jams, and not enough slot machines were complaints of some as hordes of gamblers flooded the new Rivers Casino, which opened Monday morning in Des Plaines.

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Thousands lined up early on two sides of the building and all the way into the parking garage. When the doors opened shortly before 11 a.m., they streamed in by the hundreds, hoping to get lucky.

Casino security and fire officials were monitoring the occupancy to make sure attendance didn't exceed 6,100 in the building and 3,600 on the gambling floor, and by shortly after 11 a.m., parking attendants were asking drivers to come back later. Cars were backed up on the newly widened Des Plaines River Road between Touhy and Devon avenues, requiring police to unsnarl the traffic jam.

By 7 p.m., more than 18,000 went through the casino's turnstiles. The casino said more than $4.8 million was paid out from the slot machines as of 6 p.m.

It said more than 12,000 bottles of water were handed out Monday.

Celeste Hejduk of Mount Prospect said for her it was a last-minute trip after hearing about the casino opening on TV Monday morning.

"We just hope to get lucky … don't we all," she said. "My cousin went to Harrah's (in Joliet) and won a Lexus SUV."

Fred Hejduk, who held an umbrella for his wife, said it was poor planning to have people waiting in lines for so long in the heat and complained there weren't enough handicap parking spots. Still, the retired couple said they planned to jointly spend $1,000 playing blackjack and slot machines.

The opening followed speeches by Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan and casino owner Neil Bluhm during a brief 10:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at the front entrance.

Several area mayors, including Rosemont's Bradley Stephens, whose town competed for and lost the bid for the 10th casino license, were on hand, along with other dignitaries.

Moylan yelled a resounding "cha-ching" as a shout-out to Stephens, who he said is a good friend.

"Today marks the culmination of years of planning and development," Moylan said. "When you hear Rivers Casino, you'll hear Des Plaines."

The casino created more than 1,000 jobs, he added.

Stephens acknowledged this was a great day for the region. "I'm happy for the people of Des Plaines, the people of Illinois," he said. "Hopefully, it's successful. We are all in this together."

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