So far, so good for new casino in Des Plaines

Odd props, live music, food and gambling greets guests

  • Let the games begin as Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan throws the dice right at 5 p.m. to signal the opening of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines to VIPS on Friday.

      Let the games begin as Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan throws the dice right at 5 p.m. to signal the opening of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines to VIPS on Friday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • First in line waiting for the gates to fly open are Charlene Craig of Des Plaines and her mom Mary Godzicki of Chicago before the opening of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

      First in line waiting for the gates to fly open are Charlene Craig of Des Plaines and her mom Mary Godzicki of Chicago before the opening of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Hundreds of people file into the Rivers Casino for the opening in Des Plaines Friday.

      Hundreds of people file into the Rivers Casino for the opening in Des Plaines Friday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Jeff Engelhardt
Updated 7/16/2011 11:08 AM

There was live music, a man in a spacesuit with a bubble machine and plenty of slot machines lighting up the room as Rivers Casino in Des Plaines welcomed roughly 3,500 residents and their guests in its private invitation party.

It was the first night of operation for the highly anticipated casino and it didn't disappoint, as many guests said it was one of the nicest casinos they had ever gone to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Des Plaines resident Loren Kaszubowski said the high ceilings and roomy layout make it one of the most comfortable casinos he has been to, even with all the people. He said he also enjoyed the other options the casino offers, including five eateries, a sports bar and nightclub with live music, and the cocktail lounge right in the center of the casino.

"You don't even have to gamble to have a good time if you come here," he said. "I feel this really puts Des Plaines on the map and is something we can all be proud of."

The casino boasts more than 1,050 slots, 48 table games and a VIP section for serious high rollers. But there was much more than that Friday.

The Red Moon Theater was on hand to provide entertainment, walking the aisles of the casino in eccentric costumes offering free food and playing music. There was the bubble-generating spaceman, a musical ensemble of men in bird masks, and even women wearing elaborate costumes that included a table of appetizers around their waists.

The bizarre scene seemed to be a hit with the guests and added a unique atmosphere Kate Ciampi enjoyed.

Ciampi, a 30-year Des Plaines resident, said she was excited to hear about the casino because it would mean a strong revenue source for the community and relieve the tax burden. After visiting the casino, she said it surpassed her expectations and has become her favorite casino in the Chicago area.

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"There is no reason to go anywhere else," she said. "And it gives me a chance to support the community."

Others were on hand to appreciate the atmosphere from a different perspective.

Ramon Gomez, an employee for Hilton Mechanical from Monee, was a foreman on one of the many construction crews that built the casino over the last 10 months. Gomes supervised the installation of the air conditioning and heating units and said it was a great opportunity to take on such a large project for his first time as a foreman.

"The hard work pays off," he said. "It was hard at first, but things picked up and I think it looks great. You look around and it's a great atmosphere. You have a good mix of people."

The casino got off to a strong start, exceeding the estimated 2,000 attendees by 1,500 people, and casino officials said they expect to hold that interest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Dennis Culloton, spokesman for Rivers Casino, said from the first day the process started the casino has been dedicated to the community. The project provided 700 temporary construction jobs and more than 1,000 permanent jobs.

He said the casino would continue to show that support as evidenced by the $50,000 collected for local charities Friday and the potential to become the first casino in the nation to be granted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

"From day one we were committed to being a good neighbor and that is going to continue," he said.

Greg Carlin, chief executive officer of Rivers Casino, added the diversity of entertainment options would also keep people coming back.

"We have that stage at Cube where we can book local bands and a piano in the cocktail lounge where we can have jazz trios or acoustic players -- anything we want," he said. "People are afraid of the unknown, but once they see it they realize it's a very positive experience."

All casinos, of course, have that one common trait -- the potential to win its guests' money. Just how much, if any, money it was going to take from some guests remained an open question.

"We'll see if it takes our money," said Roselle resident Lynda Cronin with a laugh as she prepared to play her first game.

The casino is set to host a VIP party from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday and then its grand opening at 10:30 a.m. Monday.