LEED Casino Gambles On Embracing Sustainability

From their round-the-clock flashing lights to their all-you-can-eat (or throw away) buffets, casinos aren’t exactly known as paragons of green virtue. But as LEED certification now seems to have penetrated to the outer reaches of the known universe, it was only a matter of time until we had a LEED-certified casino, and here it is: Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., the newest casino in the Chicagoland area, has been awarded green certification at the Gold level by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Located “steps away” from the O’Hare International Airport near downtown Chicago, Rivers Casino was designed with a sustainability plan to achieve LEED certification for energy, lighting, water and material use, as well as a variety of other sustainable elements.  The casino opened in July 2011, and it would appear that its developers have made good on their green aims for the building, claiming the title as the first casino in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification.

LEED Rivers Casino

image via Rivers Casino

“Achieving LEED Gold was challenging and expensive, but in the long run, the effort will improve the environment and reduce our operating costs,” Neil Bluhm, chairman of Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, said in a statement. We imagine he’s not kidding when he alludes to the costs involved, as the casino features a 44,000-square-foot gaming floor with nearly 1,050 slots and 48 table games.

The casino’s green features include the usual suspects in terms of energy and water conservation, such as LED light fixtures; skylights and Clerestory windows (increasing access to natural daylight, not a typical focus of casinos); low-flow plumbing fixtures and sensor-controlled faucets; occupant sensor-controlled lighting; onsite stormwater treatment; native and drought tolerant landscaping; a white roof, and concrete (rather than asphalt) parking lots, to reduce the heat-island effect; and 90 percent locally sourced building materials.

Additionally, the project diverted nearly 90 percent of its construction debris from the landfill via reuse or recycling, and features a green, living wall to improve what we imagine is already pretty good indoor air quality, as low-VOC paints and adhesives were used throughout. The casino offsets 70 percent of its electricity demand with Renewable Energy Credits, and is located close to public transportation for easy access to Chicagoland residents. (Alternately, green-minded visitors with electric vehicles are welcome to use the casino’s complimentary charging station.)

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Mandy Morrissey

    It’s the only LEED-certified casino that doesn’t have indoor smoking. 
    The other fake LEED-certified casinos allowing indoor smoking. 
    The USGBC is a fake when it comes to allowing smoking indoors.  If the casino
    wants smoking indoors, they give it to them.

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Jay F

    And it’s a smoke-free casino! Congratulations to Rivers Casino for caring not only about the environment, but also about the health of their workers and customers.

  • Reply March 23, 2012


    Congratulations on providing a healthy working environment for your employees and a desirable playing environment for your patrons by opening smoke-free. You embody what a LEEDS designation should mean for green and recycled building materials and clean indoor air.

  • Reply March 26, 2012

    Sandy A.

    Thanks for protecting customers and staff from deadly secondhand smoke, while protecting the environment! 

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