Thousands flock to new Des Plaines casino
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.
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."