About SugarHouse Casino
SugarHouse Casino opened to the public in September 2010. The first legal land-based casino to open in the City of Philadelphia is located alongside the Delaware River, a mile north of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Its convenient location and beautiful waterfront views attract more than 2 million visitors yearly.
Hotels (or lack thereof) and transportation
There is free valet and self-parking for those driving to the casino. In addition, the casino provides free transportation from more than two dozen locations throughout the city via the Sugar Express Trolley.
SugarHouse Casino is one of five stand-alone casinos in Philadelphia, which means if you need a place to stay overnight, you’re on your own. However, it is a nice destination for out-of-town travelers. It can be combined with a trip to Philadelphia, which offers no shortage of hotel rooms and things to do. SugarHouse Casino lacks the extra convenience of a complete resort and the non-gambling amenities are also limited. However, it does offer the distinct advantage of close proximity to a major city that is exciting and fascinating in its own right.
Dining and entertainment
Among the dining options at SugarHouse are Philly favorites like Tacconelli’s Pizza and Geno’s Steaks (famous for its cheesesteaks). There is also a restaurant called The Refinery offering seasonal patio dining overlooking the Delaware River.
As for the entertainment, the caliber is better than might be expected at a stand-alone casino. On select dates, headliner comedy shows or concerts by top performing artists take place at the Event Center. Guests can also enjoy local bands every Friday and Saturday night at The Refinery.
Who can play in the casino?
The minimum age to gamble at SugarHouse Casino is 21, the same as at all of the licensed Pennsylvania land-based casinos. This age requirement is strictly enforced.
Security and fairness
All Pennsylvania land-based casinos, including SugarHouse, are licensed and regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Accordingly, all Pennsylvania land-based casinos must abide by the strict regulations of this agency regarding permissible games, rules, and payouts.
Some customers complained that the security in the parking lot could be better. Presumably, management has taken the necessary steps to correct any problems.
The area in which the casino is located is considered safe, but based on its proximity to the inner city, the mixed clientele which this casino attracts creates a less than upscale atmosphere in which some guests feel uncomfortable. The advice of this reviewer is to use common sense and don’t display large amounts of cash. Don’t behave in a way that might attract unwanted attention or get into confrontations. Also, even though the casino is open 24/7, limit your visits to those times of the day and evening when the casino and surrounding area are busier.
The returns on the slot machines aren’t great, but that seems to be the case at all of the Pennsylvania casinos. Rest assured that the games are comparable to those you will find elsewhere. All of the games at SugarHouse Casino are fair and in full compliance with the standards of the PGCB.
Casino and games
SugarHouse Casino is open 24/7. It is not as large as some of the other Pennsylvania casinos, but 1,602 slot machines, 54 table games, and 28 poker tables provide more than enough variety to satisfy most players.
The slot machines at SugarHouse range from penny slots to high roller slots, so they cater to all levels of players. You should have no problem finding the right games at the right stakes. There is a wide variety of options too, whether you prefer a relatively simple, straightforward game or you prefer newer, cutting-edge slots. On those days when you’re feeling especially lucky, consider taking a shot at a progressive jackpot.
Some of the most popular slots at SugarHouse are:
- 77777 Jackpot
- Sex and the City
- Super Money Monopoly
- Wonder 4
- Big Bang Bucks
- Rumble Rumble
- Quick Hit
- Money Wheel
- Stack of Gold
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The slots are tighter
If you read any of the player review forums like Yelp and TripAdvisor, they are filled with complaints that the slots at this casino are tight. Actually, players are saying the same thing about all Pennsylvania casinos, so SugarHouse is not being singled out as any worse than the others.
One possible contributing factor is that many patrons are playing table games instead, which have a higher rate of return to the player (RTP). So in order to maintain what the casinos regard as an acceptable bottom line, the slot machine hold is greater. Also, many of the machines are penny machines, which accept multiple coins so it is actually possible to make sizable bets are known to have a lower percentage payback than higher denomination machines. Lastly, the relatively high 55 percent tax rate on slots in Pennsylvania gives casinos more of an incentive not to be more generous with their payouts than they have to be.
Thus, the rule of thumb for Pennsylvania casinos is a rate of return of 89 to 90 percent. This is definitely lower than in certain other jurisdictions, but it is actually above the PGCB-stipulated minimum, which is only 85 percent.
Besides slots, there are many other games at SugarHouse Casino, including all of the following:
- Video poker
- Spanish 21
- Mini, midi, and EZ Baccarat
- Pai gow (multiple variations)
- Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em
- Heads Up Hold ‘Em
- Three and four card poker
- Asia poker
- Mississippi stud
- Drops & Hops (a dice game)
- Casino War
- Big six
In addition to all of the above, there is a separate, state-of-the-art poker room, where those wishing to play should have no trouble finding their favorite games.
Lots of variety and side bets
As you can see, regardless of whether you prefer to play slots, table games, or both, this casino offers plenty of variety. Another notable feature, which you are likely to discover if you play table games, is that SugarHouse not only offers all of the most popular table games, but also exciting variations on familiar favorites. If playing a game that is unfamiliar to you, be sure that you understand all of the rules and recommended strategy beforehand.
Many of the games offer side bets that you can make in addition to your regular bet. You might want to try a few occasionally for fun, but keep these wagers small and infrequent because the house edge is greater than for standard bets.
For example, craps players can choose to make an optional Fire Bet side wager whenever there is a new shooter. The outcome of the bet is based on how many unrepeated points (4, 5, 6, 8, and 10) will be made before the shooter sevens out. Payouts start at 24-1 for four unrepeated numbers, then increase to 249-1 for five unrepeated numbers, and 999-1 for all six numbers.
Blackjack players can make a special side bet called Lucky Ladies, which offers extra payouts when the first two cards add up to 20. Any 20 pays 4-1, a suited 20 pays 10-1, two matching cards pay 25-1, two Queens of Hearts pay 200-1, and two Queens of Hearts vs. a Dealer Blackjack pay 1,000-1.
Novices and experienced roulette players alike should enjoy playing roulette at SugarHouse Casino since you can not only choose from a wide range of bet sizes as well as many different types of wagers from the most basic to the fairly complex. Just be sure the table you select offers single zero European roulette and not American roulette with both a single and double zero, which raises the house edge from 2.71 percent to 5.26 percent.
Unlike roulette, where the outcome is based purely on chance, blackjack is a game where both luck and skill, along with the game conditions and rules, can have a major bearing on the outcome. Even slight variations in the rules can make more of a difference than you might realize. That is why blackjack is a great option for players at Pennsylvania casinos. While you might find some variations between one casino and another in table limits, type of shuffle, and whether six or eight decks are used, the basic rules are standard across the board:
- Blackjack pays 3:2
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Doubling down permitted on any two cards
- Doubling down after splits
- Splits up to three hands (except aces)
- Late surrender
Using correct basic strategy, the edge to the house is only about .40 percent. Compared to the blackjack games at other casinos across the country, Pennsylvania blackjack ranks as one of the best.
Lacks low betting limits
At SugarHouse Casino, players have reported that the lower limit tables use eight decks rather than six and continuous shuffle machines. However, otherwise, the rules are the same. The advantage of a six-deck game over an eight-deck game is usually minimal. Shuffle machines prevent card counting but does not affect the expectations of a player using basic strategy.
Unfortunately, players looking for a $5 blackjack table will be disappointed at SugarHouse since the lowest limits at any time are $10. On weekends and holidays, the minimum is $15. On busy nights, the $15 tables are quick to fill up, so there is a good chance that a player not willing to wait will have to choose a $25 minimum table. Despite the favorable rules, playing at this level is not recommended unless you are adequately bankrolled.
SugarHouse has a 28-table poker room which, in sharp contrast to the rest of the casino, is entirely non-smoking. (However, the room opens up to a patio where smoking is allowed, so those who can’t tolerate the smell of smoke may still be affected.)
Cash games include no-limit and limit hold ‘em, Omaha and Omaha high-low, and stud and stud high-low. There are tournaments scheduled for 7:15 p.m. every night. Frequently scheduled High Hand giveaways add to the excitement.
Amenities include call-ahead seating (dial 215-717-3883), complimentary beverage service, and tableside dining service. For the latter, you can text your table, seat, and order to 215-356-2982 without having to get up from the game at all.
SugarHouse Poker has partnered with professional poker player Matt Glantz to assist in its poker-related programs and promotions. Players are also welcome to access the free mobile app Bravo Poker Live, which will keep them apprised of all of the latest poker news and promotions.
SugarHouse Casino has its own player rewards program called Rush Rewards. If you are new to the casino, stop by the Rush Rewards Player Club to obtain your card. Joining is free and carries no obligation. However, the more you play, the more you receive back in rewards.
These rewards include not only player points which you can redeem for comps, but also a wide array of special promotions ranging from giveaways for new members to drawings open to all Rush Rewards members to exclusive offers for invited guests.
Before you start playing any game, be sure to insert your card into the slot machine or present it to the dealer. You can use your earned rewards towards free play, food, drawing entries, and more. Players can keep track of their accumulated points and current offers by logging into their account online using their Rush Rewards number and PIN.
How the three-tiered rewards program works
The Rush Rewards Player’s Club has three tiers of membership:
- Rush (0-499 points)
- Preferred (500-1,499 points)
- Signature (1,500+ points)
Tier status is evaluated every six months. Unused points expire after six months of no activity.
All players receive:
- Free play
- Food offers
- Access to drawings and other special promotions
- Free check cashing
- A special birthday offer
- Discounted rates at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and on Norwegian Cruise Line cruises
Preferred and Signature members also receive the following enhanced rewards:
- Tier Club access
- Priority gift pick up
- Priority line at Rush Rewards
- Invitations to exclusive sweepstakes and events
- Entry multipliers for certain drawings
- Quarterly newsletter
- Complimentary annual Norwegian Line cruise and one complimentary room at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with Free Play
Signature members also receive their own personal VIP host and a few extra perks, including resort credit at the Cosmopolitan, priority seating at the Refinery, and priority free parking
Like any other casino, SugarHouse has its pluses and minuses. Depending on what types of considerations are most important to you, we suggest you weigh what you find great vs. what you find not so great and decide accordingly.
The major negatives are:
- Strong smell of smoke in the casino
- Tight slots
- Difficulty getting decent comps
- No on-site hotel
In addition, some guests who might be accustomed to a posher playing environment have complained about both the clientele and staff being “rough around the edges” and slow restaurant and beverage service.
On the plus side, SugarHouse Casino, though small in size, still manages to offer:
- Diverse collection of games
- Excellent blackjack and poker offerings
- Good dining options
- Frequent and varied promotions
- Location in a major ciy
1001 N. Delaware Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125