The casino floor is open 24/7 and the ticket windows are open late – Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m.
Only in Philadelphia can you place a bet on your favorite team, with a side of whiz.
The new sportsbook inside SugarHouse Casino was rocking on a recent Thursday afternoon as dozens lined up to get their bets in. There were diehard fans in Eagles knit caps and cocktail waitresses in referee outfits wielding black trays and offering complimentary bottles of water – and, for those bettors needing some liquid courage, 100-ounce draft beer towers for $20.
Want a cheesesteak? Text or call your server. There is an outpost of the landmark Geno’s Steaks around the corner, just don’t forget to specify whiz.
“We wanted to create an entire game-day experience here,” says Evan Davis, Vice President of SugarHouse Casino. “This is a place where people can watch and wager on sports, not just wager. We were the first sportsbook in Philadelphia to launch and that was a special thing for us because there are passionate people in Philadelphia and they are especially passionate about sports.”
You can bet on sports online right now at SugarHouse if you are present in the state of New Jersey. You do not have to be a New Jersey resident. Click the Bet Now button here to bet on sports now.
The sportsbook has been packed since opening their doors to legalized sports gambling on December 15, with bettors putting money on virtually anything: totals, parlays, in-game wagering and wacky prop bets. (This writer placed an ill-advised bet on Golden Tate to score a touchdown in the Eagles’ 20-14 playoff loss. Oh well.) SugarHouse is open 24/7 and ticket windows take bets until 1 a.m. on weekends. In addition, there are 24-hour betting kiosks.
“We’ve been continuously busy since we opened,” Davis said. “Look, it’s 4:30 on a Thursday and there is a line. It’s great for us, and great for people who want to wager on sports legally, and great for the state of Pennsylvania to generate tax revenues.”
SugarHouse hopes to become a “premier destination” for marquee sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and March Madness. They also want to attract European soccer fans who don’t have many options for watching hard-to-find overseas games, like the Premier League. Those games, with their weird start times at 8 a.m. or earlier in the United States, are rarely shown at area bars and restaurants.
“The feedback has been unbelievable,” says Davis. “We’re getting all kinds of sports fans, not just hardcore Philly fans.”
There are 130 fans milling around the sportsbook -- a temporary facility encompassing 1,800 square feet, with seating for 75 guests – during the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. In the main room, a nicely dressed gentleman with white hair is perched on one of SugarHouse’s 18 leather-clad barcaloungers. The comfy chairs are equipped with cell phone charging stations and overlook 12 high-definition television monitors, including a 14’ by 7’ video wall with odds display. Across the corridor, 50 guys – mostly dressed in sweatpants, hoodies and Eagles gear -- wait for their turn on one of the state-of-the-art betting kiosks, 12 in total. Average wait time: 30 minutes.
This is the new normal in Philly’s hip Fishtown neighborhood, with the city’s rabid fan base filling up SugarHouse’s sportsbook on the daily. Jordan Gonzalez, 24, of Fairmount, admits he’s already visited the casino at least 10 times. His experiences have been 100% positive, although sometimes the lines can be long. Especially when the Eagles are playing.
“Usually, I’m in and out in 20 minutes,” says Gonzalez. “I waited about an hour at the kiosk the other day. It’s all good. You can’t beat this place for the convenience factor.”
The long waits are already being addressed, according to Davis. To keep up with incredible demand, the casino has ordered more kiosks and hired more ticket makers and even more jobs are being created. They also plan to open a newer, larger sportsbook before the end of the year in an underused space near Lucky Red, a cocktail lounge right past the electronic blackjack machines.
“We are trying to grow to keep up with the demand,” says Davis. “We’re excited by the level of demand and it’s creating more jobs. It’s extremely important for us to be a true partner to the Fishtown community, and making sure it’s as vibrant as possible and committed to the residents.”
Financially, it’s been very vibrant -- despite a very small sample size. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported a total of $183,238.77 in tax revenue from November 15-30 at the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, the first casino to conduct legalized sports gambling in the state. The December report, which will include revenues from SugarHouse, comes out on January 18.
And there’s more revenue on the way, courtesy of online gaming. SugarHouse’s parent company, Rush Street Interactive, is currently operating online gaming in New Jersey. That means the infrastructure for online gaming is basically in place. They just need a green light from Harrisburg.
“I know the state is burning the midnight oil to get that regulated, vetted and licensed,” said Davis, admitting he has no timeline. “It’s coming soon.”
Of course, there is slight concern that the ability to conveniently place legal sports bets at home could cannibalize the brick-and-mortar sportsbook. But Davis doesn’t see it that way. He visualizes two separate arms, offering completely different experiences.
“I think in-game wagering may be more popular online, but the physical sportsbook is a great integrated experience,” said Davis. “You can hang out here all day, in solitude or with your buddies, and watch all the games. Make a day of it.”
One more advantage, you can play a hand of poker or spin the roulette wheel at halftime.
“Look out over there,” says Davis, smiling and pointing. “We’re about 30 yards, pitching wedge distance, from a blackjack table.”
Back at SugarHouse’s brick-and-mortar sportsbook, Jordan Gonzalez fills out his sports betting slip. He’s heard the money has been moving hard on the Eagles in recent days. (A SugarHouse spokesperson later confirmed that 87 percent of moneyline bets and 85 percent of spread bets for the Eagles-Saints game favored the hometown team).
None of that would have mattered to Gonzalez. He wasn’t taking the bait.
“I love my Eagles, but I’m not betting on them,” says Gonzalez. “You can’t let emotion get into it. You can’t bet with your heart.”
A fellow better chuckled in agreement as the words left Gonzalez’s lips.
“Never put your money where you eat,” he chimed in.
Or, if you do, ask for whiz.