New Meadows GM sees some changes coming, but will wait for others

Michael Bradwell
Observer Reporter

The new general manager of The Meadows Casino said Tuesday his company will make capital investments in the gaming and entertainment venue in North Strabane Township.

Rodney Centers, 45, a 10-year veteran of the casino industry, also said he’s confident state legislators will arrive at a fair solution for how Pennsylvania’s casinos will fund local share payments to communities, following last month’s state Supreme Court decision that the current funding method is unconstitutional.

Centers was named to the head position at the Racetrack Road venue in late summer by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment, which became operator of The Meadows’ facilities in September.

The changes followed the completion of a sale in December of The Meadows by former owner Cannery Casino Resorts to Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. of Wyomissing for $440 million, Under its operating agreement, Pinnacle is leasing the property from GLPI.

The Meadows and its 1,300 employees become part of a publicly held company that employs 15,000 in operating 16 gaming and entertainment properties in nine states and 13 distinct markets.

Prior to The Meadows assignment, Centers was vice president and general manager at Pinnacle’s Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, the most visited tourist attraction in that city. Earlier, he was general manager of Boomtown Casino Hotel in Bossier City, La.

As for its standing among the other Pinnacle-managed properties by size, Centers said The Meadows is in the top half.

“From a revenue standpoint, it’s in the top five,” he added.

It’s also one of three Pinnacle properties that offers horse racing.

While stating it’s early in the game at The Meadows, Centers said Pinnacle “will inject capital into the property,” adding it wants to expand food and beverage options and also is looking to convert the recently opened Meadows Events Center into a year-round venue.

“We believe there is demand here for meeting space,” he said.

With The Meadows representing Pinnacle’s entry into the Pennsylvania gaming market, Centers acknowledged it’s also too early to determine how certain legislative and regulatory issues will play out in the Keystone State.

He said Pinnacle has been following news of proposals to introduce online gaming in Pennsylvania, but isn’t letting that possibility cloud its plans for The Meadows.

“We have no plans for a change of focus because of online gambling,” he said.

As for the recent state Supreme Court decision that the method for casinos to provide their local share to communities and counties in which they operate is unconstitutional, Centers said he’s confident an equitable decision will be reached by state legislators.

And while Pinnacle is planning to expand food and beverage options at The Meadows, he added it remains to be seen whether Pinnacle will opt to purchase a special liquor license to offer round-the-clock drinks to its guests.

“The safety of our guests has to be first and foremost, but we want to have offerings to have folks come in and spend time with us.”

Centers also said Pinnacle will continue The Meadows’ tradition of being a community player, particularly its commitment to contributing to food drives for feeding the less fortunate. He added Pinnacle also is committed to helping veterans.

And while Pinnacle is entering a market where gaming has been legalized in all of the states surrounding Pennsylvania, Centers is unfazed about how Pinnacle will compete for customers, whether they’re local or from out of state.

“We view competition as a good thing,” he said. “Guests are going to go where they receive the best service, they feel safe and they have a good time.”