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PENNSYLVANIA TRIP REPORT: THE MEADOWS CASINO

by Mark Gruetze

Mark Gruetze write’s the weekly "Player’s Advantage" gambling column for the Pittsburg Tribune-Review in Pennsylvania. His columns are online at http://triblive.com/aande/gambling. He has been a skilled recreational player for more than 30 years, focusing on blackjack, video poker, and poker. E-Mail questions or comments to players@triweb.com.

Note: The trip to The Meadows occurred in April 2014.

The Meadows casino south of Pittsburgh is on a mission. Management wants to reclaim the position as the No. 1 gambling site in a market that includes Western Pennsylvania, much of West Virginia and eastern Ohio.

The 7-year-old casino has more slot machines than any of its regional competitors, which include Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh (subject of a trip report in January’s BJI), Wheeling Island and Mountaineer casinos in West Virginia, the Horseshoe in Cleveland and the Hollywood in Columbus, Ohio.

For blackjack players, Meadows offers the player-friendly rules in effect for all Pennsylvania casinos: S17, late surrender, DOA, DAS and mandatory 3-to-2 payout for all naturals. All shoe games are six-deckers, with about 1.5 decks cut off. Dealers use a notch in the shoe to insert the cutoff card, leaving little variation in penetration.

On a Sunday visit, I counted 26 blackjack tables on the main floor, with eight set up for CSMs. Eight to 10 blackjack tables were open. A high-limit room had six more tables, and a more private section of that room had three additional tables. Only two tables were active in the high-limit room, both with $50 minimums. A roulette table and midi-bac table were idle.

The Meadows boasts that it has at least one $5 minimum tables open all the time; usually, two are open. On this day, one $5 game used a shoe and one used a CSM. Most blackjack tables have side bets: In Between, Lucky Ladies or House Money.

Meadows – whose physical address is 210 Racetrack Road, Washington, PA 15301 – is about a half-hour south of Pittsburgh. Drivers should take Exit 41 off Interstate 79; the casino is about a mile east of the interstate.

It’s owned by Cannery Casino Resorts, which also operates the Cannery and Eastside Cannery in Las Vegas. Meadows has 61 table games, a nonsmoking poker room and 3,239 slot machines, but "no good video poker," according to www.vpfree2.com.

The adjacent harness track offer races more than 200 days a year, and a simulcast center a level below the casino offers betting at tracks across the country. The lower level also has a 24-lane bowling alley.

Meadows has four food outlets: Bistecca steak house; Carvery restaurant (choice of buffet or order from menu); Delvins Trackside (sandwiches); and a food court.

A 155-room Hyatt Place hotel that will be connected to the casino is under construction; eight other hotels are within two miles. Tanger Outlet Mall is between the casino and I-79.

The American Gaming Association ranked the Pittsburgh/Washington County area as the No. 17 gambling market in the country in 2012 as measured by revenue. The Meadows says it has accepted blackjack bets of $15,000 per hand on two spots and one craps player’s action of $100,000 on a roll.

The Meadows racetrack marked its 50th anniversary last year. The casino opened in 2007 and was the region’s top gambling spot until Rivers opened on Pittsburgh’s North Shore in 2009.

As part of the push to become the region’s No. 1 casino, Meadows executives announced plans to increase spending on marketing, advertising, rewards, comps and promotions by 10 percent, or about $10 million, this year.

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