Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers pulled off perhaps the greatest sports marketing coup of all time. They introduced their first mascot. An orange furball with crazy eyes who managed to turn the fan base’s initial “kill it with fire” response to one of undying loyalty. “Gritty is us and we are Gritty,” his “Gritzens” pledge.
The Flyers continued their power play for a younger crowd for the 2019/2020 season with the debut of the New City Terrace’s Assembly Room. It is accessible via the Flyers’ first-ever standing room admission, which, at $25, stands as one of the lowest-priced tickets in the NHL.
There are a number of changes that have occurred at the Wells Fargo Center. Some of it is an effort to modernize the 23-year-old arena. The other rink renovations appear to be following in the NHL’s footsteps of embracing legal sports betting. Since the federal ban was lifted in May 2018, the NHL was among the first leagues to lay out the welcome mat.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a regular speaker at sports betting summits and said: “you either evolve or become extinct.” The 2019-20 NHL season presented the Wells Fargo Center a chance to capitalize on new opportunities presented from legal sports betting in Pennsylvania.
A transformation with a sports betting slant
The Wells Fargo Center is in the midst of “Transformation 2020,” a $265 million initiative that is re-inventing the arena’s live event experience through a series of major upgrades. In September, the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center entered into an agreement with SugarHouse Casino and PlaySugarHouse.com to become their official sportsbook partners.
The multi-year deal includes two branded, hi-tech sports lounges, The Rivers Casino Philadelphia Sports Lounge and the The BetRivers.com Sports Lounge. The Rivers branding reflects the casino’s impending transition from SugarHouse Casino to Rivers Casino Philadelphia. As part of the rebrand, the online component, PlaySugarhouse.com will transition to BetRivers.com in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Where are the BetRivers lounges at Wells Fargo Center?
The Rivers Casino Philadelphia Sports Lounge is on the Main Concourse level, is located in the completely redesigned south end of the arena. The 5,680 square-foot space features ten 86″ screens grouped throughout the seating areas, mixed with odds boards and an additional 16 monitors at the bar.
The BetRivers.com Sports Lounge, located on the New City Terrace, faces the bowl so fans can watch the action as it happens below. The nearly 6,500-square-foot lounge is equipped with club chairs, bar and table seating, as well as a custom 22-feet long by eight feet tall LED video wall that anchors the viewing area, which has its own dedicated seating space.
NHL gets in on the sports betting action
BetRivers is a prominent, if not the prominent advertiser. The NHL betting lines via BetRivers pop up on the video concession board waiting in line for a drink. They are also on video ad signage throughout the concourse. The BetRivers brand has placement on all four corner boards on the rink. The world’s “most technologically advanced” scoreboard above center ice also flashed BetRivers branding and hockey betting lines periodically.
The view from the sports betting lounges
Rivers Casino Philadelphia Sports Lounge took over the spot formerly occupied by P.J. Whelihans. It still trends more toward a bar than sportsbook.
The BetRivers.com Sports Lounge is right next to the Assembly Room. The drink rail along the length of the Assembly Room was filled, so those looking for a view of the game or a seat naturally gravitate toward the BetRivers.com Sports Lounge.
This one has more of sportsbook feel. Rows of leather chairs faced live screens with college football, Yankees vs. Astros, and NHL action. In another area of the sports lounge, there is a black leather sofa with more TVs. There was plenty of seating and room to spread out.
The view from the top is obviously not the best, but the atmosphere is better than below deck. The standing-room only ticket is great if your attention is divided because you are betting on something else and want to keep your eye on those games. Or, if you simply want to go to a game with a few people and feel free to move around and mingle.
Here is a look at the new BetRivers branding around Wells Fargo Center:
Sports bettors confused by BetRivers setup
At one of the first Flyers home games of the season, there was quite a bit of confusion about what kind of sports betting was available.
“Where are the kiosks?” said a thirtysomething man in the sports lounge on the concourse level. “I want to bet on the Eagles game.”
He wasn’t the only one looking for kiosks or a teller to place a bet. However, there are no kiosks or tellers at the BetRivers lounges. The only betting option for customers is on their phones and tablets.
Could in-arena wagering be the next chapter of legalized sports betting in PA? It does have fans. Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards CEO Ted Leonsis wants to see a sports betting facility at the Capital One Arena. Fans in New York and Illinois may be able to bet at arenas and stadiums in the future thanks to a sports betting bill amendment.
In order for it to happen, there would need to be a change in Pennsylvania law, which only allows kiosks within regulated brick and mortar sportsbooks and casinos.
No sports betting ambassadors on-site at Wells Fargo
A press release from Wells Fargo Center says:
“Rivers Casino Philadelphia ambassadors will be in both lounges to assist interested, eligible guests in learning how to register for the betrivers.com online sportsbook so they can get in on the action.”
However, when PlayPennsylvania staff was on site, they were not approached by any Rivers Casino ambassadors. There were not any staffers with a BetRivers shirt, or an “ask me about Bet Rivers” sign either. That could be changing though.
Co-Founder and CEO of Rush Street Gaming Greg Carlin commented on the early stages of the BetRivers/Wells Fargo partnership week’s Global Gaming Expo:
“One of our most important metrics is first-time deposits. We looked at Wells Fargo the day after and looked at that number and it was lower than I thought it would have been. I think a lot of that is on us considering it was opening night and the first night of our sponsorship. They’ve been great partners with us. We have a whole plan to tweak things. We were actually there, the whole team, in the arena that night watching. So we are able to make adjustments to our collateral, messages, and different things. I think, over time, it is going to work a lot better.”