To hear Boyd Gaming Corporation VP of Communications David Strow tell it, his company’s 25 gaming entertainment properties portfolio across eight states — 1.4 million square feet of casino space, more than 31,000 gaming machines, 680 table games, nearly 10,000 hotel rooms, and 290 food and beverage outlets — has not included an East Coast property in a minute until the opening of Valley Forge Casino Resort. Not since MGM Resorts International acquired Boyd’s 50 percent interest in Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City for approximately $900 million during the summer of 2016.
“Our strategy is built around creating a nationwide, geographically diverse portfolio across the United States, trying to establish a presence in as many different gaming markets as possible,” said Strow, who has been with Boyd Gaming for 11 years, after a stay at Caesars (now Harrah’s) Entertainment at the very start of Pennsylvania gaming at Harrah’s Chester. “Clearly, if you look at our holdings across the map, not only do we not have any assets in Pennsylvania, we haven’t any assets on the East Coast. Our furthest assets East — after we divested the Borgata in 2016 — was Biloxi, Mississippi, and Michigan City, Indiana.”
Therefore, Valley Forge Casino Resort, just north of the King of Prussia Mall — all 40,000-square foot, 600 slot machines, 50 table games, 8 restaurants and bars, 100,000 square feet of meeting, convention and exhibit space, and 498 hotel rooms — is an exceptional purchase, one within an appealing demographic of new money-spending millennials and dug-in longtime families looked appealing.
“That area is a very important market, with a strongly performing asset with some of the highest win-per-unit numbers of any casino in the area,” he said. “It’s one of the most high trafficked locations in the Philadelphia area. That was very attractive.”
Valley Forge Casino Resort a big step forward for Pennsylvania gambling
Keith Smith, President/CEO of Boyd Gaming said, in a statement, that “this is a moment of significant opportunity for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry,” in response to the new options available to all Pennsylvania casinos in regards to legislation passed in 2017 to expand slots (“we will move forward quickly with the addition of 250 slot machines to the property’s casino floor,” wrote Smith), and the potential to soon offer both online gaming and sports wagering (“through our partnership with FanDuel Group”).
Strow and Boyd gaming are no strangers to sports betting, as they have been offering as much in Nevada for 40 years now. When it came to finding a sports betting outlet, Boyd had an eye toward the sort of brand equity the casino corporation holds in Las Vegas and beyond its city limits. “Our relationship to FanDuel is a national strategic partnership that is growing as the market grows,” said Strow. “When we were looking for partners, we found FanDuel to be a brand that’s heavily advertised and ubiquitous with Sunday football and potential betters across the country. Our customers know them as a valuable sports betting brand.”
In respect to further online gaming issues, FanDuel is now merged (for U.S. dealing) with Paddy Power Betfair out of Ireland, a company with extensive infrastructure to that brand of gaming worldwide. “When we’re ready to ramp up, we’ll be able to do so very quickly,” said Strow. And no, there is no timetable for Valley Forge as yet, but Boyd/Valley Forge is moving forward, and ready when you are.”
(It’s important to note that Boyd was NOT part of Valley Forge Casino Resort ownership in August 2018 when the casino agreed to pay $85,000 in fines to Pennsylvania gaming regulators to settle two violations, including charges that it missed out on properly monitoring programs involving a manager allegedly stealing over $90,000. “We had a very smooth licensing process with state regulators and look forward to working with them closely,” stated Strow. “We take doing the right thing very seriously.”)
What is quickly ramping up for Boyd’s $280.5 million acquisition — what the money will look like at Valley Forge Casino — is an immediate expansion of its slots, with 250 new machines and new carpeting on the casino floor. Early next year, the plan is to offer local audiences the Boyd Gaming Corp’s “Be Connected Player Loyalty Card” which gives PA gamers a shot at redeeming comps at Boyd properties across the country, or win top- tier incentives to Las Vegas or Hawaii. “That’s an attractive upgrade if you are a regular gamer,” said Strow.
“Beyond that, its too early to tell anything else we just took over the ownership property, and must figure out, understand, how this location works, what the potential is, where the opportunities are. But we’re closely examining everything.”
So, Boyd Gaming is rolling the dice, and gambling in Valley Forge.
One advantage they do have in acquiring a Pennsylvania casino gaming market in a tony neighborhood – and its competition in NJ – is that, from 2003 to 2016 they held the note at the Borgata in AC. “It was the leading gaming location in Atlantic City, probably the East Coast, so we truly understand the East Coast market and its customers. We’re looking forward to putting that experience to work in Valley Forge.”