Forget what you think you know about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The “Steel City” doesn’t do that much steel anymore. It now has almost 13 times as many health care workers as steel and aluminum plant workers, state labor statistics say.
Tech companies, including large operations for Google, Uber and Amazon as well as a bevy of start-ups, are booming, spurred in part by groundbreaking robotics and artificial-intelligence research at Carnegie Mellon University.
A region long known for putting French fries on salads and coleslaw on sandwiches was named Zagat’s No. 1 food city in the United States. An area once derided as “hell with the lid off” routinely appears at the top of “most livable cities” lists, and the Lawrenceville section has been hailed as one of the hippest neighborhoods in the country – and the world – by publications as diverse as Money magazine, Lonely Planet, Business Insider and Monocle magazine.
Sure, most Western Pennsylvania residents are as crazy about the Steelers as Jack and Rebecca Pearson are on NBC’s “This Is Us,” and you’re bound to run into a few references to “yinz” and other Pittsburghese. But most visitors are flabbergasted by the city, which boasts awe-inspiring vistas and a hometown feeling among its 90 neighborhoods.
Pittsburgh is hundreds of miles from the Philadelphia metro area and offers a different vibe from its cross-state sports and political rival. The largest city in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is the hub of the region, which stretches from Erie, on the shore of its namesake Great Lake, to the coal and natural-gas fields bordering West Virginia.
The area offers much to appeal to anyone looking to move to Pennsylvania to take advantage of the impending launch of a legal online poker and other casino games.
The state approved full-fledged Internet gaming late last year, and most of the 12-land based casinos are expected to launch online operations this year. Pennsylvania joins New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada as the only states with legal online casino gaming. It is by far the most populous of the four, which should lead to a good variety of poker offerings. Online gamblers must be in the state to play. You don’t have to be a resident, but for players thinking about moving, here’s a quick guide to what you’ll find in and around Pittsburgh. (An overview of Pennsylvania is here, and a look at Philadelphia is here; future reports will look at other sections of the state).
Pittsburgh casino scene
Western Pennsylvania is home to four land-based casinos, including a small resort facility in the Laurel Highlands. Internet gaming licenses are limited to holders of an existing casino license, so it’s likely that promotions and tournaments will encourage online players to visit a land-based facility. These are in Western Pennsylvania:
- Rivers: 777 Casino Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, (877) 558-0777; it has a 30-table poker room, which has been featured in several “Poker Night in America” segments, plus 93 other table games and 2,890 slots, according to January figures from the Gaming Control Board.
- Meadows: 210 Racetrack Road, Washington, PA 15301, 724-503-1200; it has a 14-table poker room, which this month is hosting its second set of Heartland Poker Tour tournaments, plus 68 other table games and 3,056 slots; it also has a harness-racing track.
- Presque Isle Downs: 8199 Perry Highway, Erie, PA 16509, (866) 374-3386; seven poker tables, 33 other table games and 1,593 slots; it also has a thoroughbred race track.
- Lady Luck Nemacolin: 4067 National Pike, Farmington, PA, 15437, (724) 329-7500, ($10 resort purchase required to enter casino); no poker tables, 28 table games, and 600 slots.
Jack Casino in Cleveland is about two hours from Pittsburgh, and Mountaineer and Wheeling Island casinos in West Virginia are about an hour from Pittsburgh.
Living in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s population was 305,305, according to 2016 Census estimates; about 2.5 million people live in the 10-county metro area. The cost of living is lower than the national average; The Tax Foundation, for example, says $100 spent in Pittsburgh has the purchasing power of $106. For years, Allegheny County, which is home to Pittsburgh, was known for having the second-largest concentration of elderly residents outside Palm Beach County, Florida. While that population group is still large, Pittsburgh’s median age is now 32.9, compared with the national average of 37.9, according to Census figures. Forbes magazine ranks the city among the best 25 places for millennials.
- Housing costs: Zillow.com says the median price of homes that sold is $145,100, while the average rental list price is $1,195. For a neighborhood guide, check out
- Food: The Primanti Brothers sandwich, a concoction of meat, cheese, coleslaw and French fries between two slabs of Italian bread, was invented to meet the needs of hungry Pittsburgh truckers during the Great Depression. It’s gained national fame as the restaurant expanded to other states, and televised sports broadcasts frequently show the sandwiches being assembled. More recently, the city has become a foodie mecca, with Zagat lauding an influx of well-known chefs and inventive dishes.
- Schools: Carnegie Mellon, where students and staff developed an artificial intelligence unit that trounced four of the world’s top heads-up No Limit ’Em players, is in the Oakland neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Duquesne University is Uptown. Pittsburgh has more than 86,000 students in 10 colleges and universities.
- Weather: Summers can be hot and muggy, winters can be cold and snowy.
- Getting around: Light rail and bus service are available in the city, but having a car makes life much easier. Bicycling.com ranks Pittsburgh among the top 20 bike-friendly cities, citing its bike-share system and dedicated bicycle lanes on some major streets. For a true Pittsburgh ride, check out the Incline, a century-old cable car that carries passengers to the top or bottom of Mt. Washington.
- Major employers: Seven Pittsburgh companies, including Kraft Heinz and PNC Financial Services, are on the Fortune 500 list of the country’s top-grossing businesses. UPMC Health System and Highmark Health are the top employers. Natural-gas drilling has boomed in the past decade, and Shell Oil is building a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant about 30 miles from Pittsburgh.
Things to do in Pittsburgh besides gambling
- Sports: With the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, the black-and-gold are always in season in some of the most appealing sports facilities in the country. The Steelers have six Super Bowl trophies and have missed the playoffs only three times since the 2001 season. The Penguins, back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, boast two of the NHL’s premier players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Pirates, part of the NL Central Division, have one of the best ballparks in the Major Leagues. Pittsburgh’s three rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio – offer ample room for water sports. Snow skiing and whitewater rafting sites are nearby. The Pittsburgh Marathon, run each May, takes runners through 14 neighborhoods on a course that’s certified by USA Track & Field and serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
- History: Pittsburgh played a significant role in U.S. history, including its role as “Gateway to the West” in the 1700s and its rise to industrial prominence with the founding of U.S. Steel and Westinghouse Electric. It was the site of the Whiskey Rebellion after the Revolutionary War and of the deadly Homestead Strike in the early days of labor unions. Now, Uber is among four companies testing and developing self-driving cars in the city.
- Culture: The 14-square-block Cultural District in Downtown boasts seven world-class theaters, eight public parks and art installations, a dozen art galleries, 90 retail shops and 50 restaurants. It stages more than 2,000 events a year.
- Taxes: The city wage tax totals 3 percent for residents – a 1 percent city tax and 2 percent school tax – but is only 1 percent for non-residents who work in the city. Most municipalities outside the city also impose a 1 percent wage tax on residents. The local wage is in addition to the state’s 3.07 percent income tax. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and several suburbs, imposes a 1 percent sales tax on top of the state’s 6 percent tax; food and clothing are exempt from sales tax. Outside Allegheny County, the sales tax is 6 percent.
- Remember the H: Pittsburgh is one of the few “burg” cities spelled with an “h” at the end. As the story goes, the area was originally called Fort Duquesne, but a British general renamed it “Pittsbourgh” in 1758 to honor William Pitt the Elder, earl of Chatham. The 1816 charter establishing the city used the spelling “Pittsburgh.” In 1891, a federal board tasked with standardizing place names across the country decreed that all sites ending in “burgh” had to drop the “h.” The city, the Pittsburgh Stock Exchange, the University of Pittsburgh, residents and local newspapers resisted the change, and the federal board rescinded the decision in 1911.
- High-tech history: Carnegie Mellon research professor Scott Fahlman gets credit with inventing the first emoticons (a colon and right parenthesis for a smiley face, a colon and left parenthesis for sad or serious face) in 1982. He suggested it as a way for message-board readers to know when an author was joking.
- Remember Roberto: Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who died in in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake, once summed up the magic of Pittsburgh. “In a way, I was born twice,” he said. “I was born in 1934, and again in 1955 when I came to Pittsburgh.”