Want a Sports Bet With a Side of Fries in South Philly? Chickie’s and Pete’s Hopes for Approval

Posted By Kevin Shelly on January 27, 2021 - Last Updated on January 31, 2021

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission will consider a request to relocate the South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook, better known as the Turf Club, at its next board meeting on Feb. 23.

The proposal would apparently move Parx’s satellite pari-mutuel wagering operations, directly across the street from Cordish’s Live! Casino Philadelphia on Packer Avenue, to a portion of a popular restaurant on the 1500 block of Packer.

If pari-mutuel wagering is approved at the new location, then Parx could also request sports betting be allowed at the new location, according to a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Turf Club property already listed for sale

Already the Turf Club location at 700 Packer Avenue is listed for sale by the building’s owner, Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation, which is owned by Mark Nicoletti.

The Turf Club had to close several times due to the virus pandemic. And a sister off-track wagering location, the Oaks, has closed permanently due to the disruption.

Civic association opposes moving Turf Club operations

A homeowners association leader in South Philadelphia is adamantly against the proposal to move Turf Club operations down the street to Chickie’s & Pete’s, a popular restaurant chain.

There is a small strip shopping center with a small parking lot there. But the rest of the area is a residential community of row homes.

The proposal calls for making 2,607 square feet of the existing restaurant into a sportsbook and pari-mutuel wagering space.

Zoning meeting set to consider Turf Club move

The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment has a meeting set for Feb. 10 to consider the application.

Barbara Capozzi, president of the Packer Park Civic Association, who is both a lawyer and a real estate agent, told PlayPennsylvania:

“The specific problem is Parx Casino is proposing to join with Chickie’s & Pete’s in order to better compete against the new Cordish Casino.

“The concept of sports betting/horse betting (replacing Turf Club) — more gambling in general — and on our side of Packer Avenue, has the neighbors in an uproar, and rightly so.”

Chickie’s & Pete’s already has a link to Parx

Chickie’s & Pete’s has 17 locations, including a spot inside Parx Casino in Bensalem, where a race track and pari-mutuel racing venue also operate.

According to the South Philly Review, the Packer location opened on July 4th weekend in 2003. The South Philly Review was the first to partially break the news.

The restaurant and sports bar chain, best known for its popular Crabfries, is owned by Pete Ciarrocchi, a part owner of the former Philadelphia Soul arena football team. An email request for comment from Ciarrocchi on Wednesday had gotten no response as of press time.

The chain has offered wagering for several years at a location in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.

Locals holding a meeting to discuss the proposal

The civic association is holding an outside meeting on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. for residents to weigh in on the proposal. The meeting location is 1631 Packer Ave. There will also be a Zoom link provided on the civic association’s website at www.packerparkcivic.com.

Meanwhile, an online petition has more than 400 residents opposed and just one in favor.

Capozzi said the community should determine land uses in the neighborhood:

“We are tired of outsiders trying to make a buck in our area with bad uses. We do not want gambling here, we do not want extra crowds here, we will not tolerate the riffraff, crime and decreased property values that accompany gambling venues. Enough is enough.”

Capozzi said one potential buyer for the Turf Club property is a Sports District team.

And a gambling industry source said he directly heard Cordish officials expressing an interest in the property. The Turf Club is literally in the shadow of the new Live! Casino.

While it reopened after citywide virus restrictions on Jan. 4, the Turf Club parking lot has remained nearly empty.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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