Catch up on Part 1 of our Live! Philadelphia preview series.
In the Bible, there are four Gospels, but in real estate, there are only three: location, location, location. The opening-soon Live! Casino Philadelphia hit the location jackpot.
The $700 million hotel and casino at 900 Packer Avenue is in a prime location in the Stadium District in South Philadelphia. Senior vice president of marketing Mario Maesano said:
“That’s the name of the game in this business. The casino with the best location usually does pretty well. We think we have the premier location in the market that allows us to attract customers from all over the city, up toward Trenton, and just as important, the western New Jersey market, where we think we can make some inroads.”
Its moniker “Live!” is the opposite of what’s happening in a city and country still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down casinos, indoor dining and more during the spring, and again in December. The Stadium District in South Philadelphia, home of Philadelphia’s four major sports teams, concerts and other events, usually draws about 8.5 million visitors annually.
South Philadelphia Stadium District has a storied history
Since March, with the exception of a few Philadelphia Eagles games, the once-packed seats have been empty. Fans — the life of the party at home games — are conspicuously absent. The games go on, but the teams, arena and stadiums eagerly await their return. So does Live! Casino Philadelphia.
Over the past dozen years, the complex rocked when Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid proved a process was worth the pain. Heads and the building shook when the Flyers bullied their way out of a 3-0 hole to beat the Boston Bruins in seven games en route to the Stanley Cup finals.
It reached transcendental levels of excitement when the Phillies fought their way through a rain delay and 25 years of futility to win a World Series, and a nearly a decade later when an Eagles team of hungry dogs brought home the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
Live! Casino Philadelphia will have to capture a bit of that fight and magic, and of course a widely distributed vaccine, to build a legacy like its neighbors. But it’s in a prime position to be a part of Philadelphia’s comeback story.
Competing in a busy Philly gaming landscape
Four of Pennsylvania’s 12 existing brick-and-mortar casinos are within 25 miles of Philly Live!
So how will the newcomer compete? Maesano says Live!’s reward program and the fact that its casino is tailored for Philadelphia give it a competitive advantage:
“This casino is built for Philadelphia. The competitors took the products they use in other markets and copy and pasted it here. We are building this specifically for the Philadelphia market, from the restaurants we are choosing to the games, decor and amenities.
“We think we are building the casino Philadelphia actually deserves and not a cookie-cutter casino. This is custom-built for the Philadelphia market, and they are going to see what we mean once they walk through the front door, and the first words out of their mouths are going to be ‘Wow. We didn’t know what we were missing until this place opened.’”
Revenue figures from casinos near Live!
2019-20 fiscal year figures for casinos within a 25-mile radius of Live! Casino Philadelphia follow.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia
Distance from Live!: 5.3 miles
Slot revenue $123.6 million
Slot win per day $216
# of machines 1,697
Table games revenue $94.8 million
Retail sportsbook revenue $5.7 million
Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia
Distance from Live!: 13 miles
Slot revenue $136.2 million
Slot win per day $230
# of machines 2,176
Table games revenue $42.4 million
Retail sportsbook revenue $1.7 million
Distance from Live!: 22 miles
Slot revenue $300.4 million
Slot win per day $322
# of machines 3,098
Table games revenue $137.9 million
Retail sportsbook revenue $9.3 million
Valley Forge Casino
Distance from Live! 25 miles
Slot revenue $75.1 million
Slot win per day $308
# of machines 821
Table games revenue $26.6 million
Retail sportsbook revenue $1.4 million
Newest addition to the sports complex
Apart from a number of competing casinos nearby, Live! has a some-well known neighbors.
- The Wells Fargo Center: Opened in 1996 and home to the Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League and select Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball games.
- Lincoln Financial Field: “The Linc” opened in 2003 and is the home of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Temple Owls football team.
- Citizens Bank Park: The Philadelphia Phillies’ home field since 2004.
- With the addition of Xfinity Live! in 2012, and now Live! Casino, it is no longer just a sports complex. It’s a sports, entertainment and casino-resort hub. Live! Casino is a stone’s throw from Xfinity Live!, an 80,000-square-foot complex dedicated to dining and entertainment. It is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions; however it is a popular pre/during/postgame spot for fans and a frequent place of choice for broadcasts. The Cordish Companies developed and owns XFinity Live! in partnership with Comcast Spectacor.
- Fusion Arena: Cordish is also planning the first dedicated esports venue in the Sports Complex at a $50 million price tag. Construction has been delayed due to the pandemic.
- South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook: Across the street from Live! sits one of the last remaining off-track betting facilities in Pennsylvania. The Parx-owned facility that was formerly named the South Philadelphia Turf Club is the last of these facilities in the Philadelphia region.
Partnerships with Philadelphia pro teams
Philadelphia sports teams started forming partnerships with casinos in 2018 and since then have teamed for sports betting, also.
Maesano said that Live! Casino Philadelphia becoming a partner with the four major sports teams in Philadelphia is part of its marketing strategy. It has had discussions with all the teams, and a deal is currently in place with the Phillies that includes a limited edition commemorative rewards card.
Philadelphia a growing tourist and foodie destination
Forty-six million people visited the greater Philadelphia area in 2019 and spent $7.6 billion.
Philadelphia is more than the “Rocky steps” and the Liberty Bell. It’s home to various museums, historical landmarks, the oldest continuously inhabited street in America (Elfreth’s Alley) and the oldest zoo (Philadelphia Zoo). It’s also a haven for foodies.
Philadelphia is known for its cheesesteaks, and there is no denying the deliciousness of a wiz wit. However, there’s more than a signature sandwich. The city’s food scene has been getting some well-deserved high praise.
Conde Nast Traveler ranked Philadelphia among its top eight 2021 destinations.
“We are excited about the opening of Live! It will add even more energy to the sports and entertainment district with hotel amenities and will help draw leisure visitors, especially on weekends.”
Live! plans to shine with Philly food scene
In August 2019, Travel + Leisure named Philadelphia as the best food city on the East Coast. In December 2020, Esquire magazine named Philadelphia-based Kalaya one of the best new restaurants in the country and said, “Even in a city with arguably the most exciting food scene in the United States, [Kalaya] leaves the competition in its dust.”
Live! recently announced that The Prime Rib, which was previously at the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, would join its dining lineup, which also includes:
- Luk Fu
- Guy Fieri’s Taco Joint
- Guy’s Burger Joint
- Sang Kee Noodle House
- Lorenzo and Sons Pizza
- Termini Bros.
- Morty’s Deli
Commented Maesano about Live!’s dining options:
“We aren’t just building an average hotel and casino. This is a five-star, four-diamond luxury hotel. We don’t do traditional casino dining. Everything we do from a food and beverage standpoint in this company is a step above everything in the market. When you put that philosophy of being a foodie company in a town that prides itself on being a foodie town, it’s a perfect marriage. We don’t feel our competitors can or do offer the quality or variety of food that we are going to have at Live!”
Rivers Casino Philadelphia closed on Nov. 20 and will not reopen until at least Jan. 15, 2021, as a result of a series of changes to the current restrictions by the City of Philadelphia to slow the surge of coronavirus cases. Prior to its closing, Rivers Philadelphia, the only casino in the city’s limits until Live! joins, was operating at 25% capacity. The state’s other casinos operated at 50%.
Live! Casino Philadelphia is set to open in “early 2021,” according to casino reps. Some sources say it is planning for the third week in January, the beginning of February or by the end of first-quarter 2021. When it does open, what capacity limits will there be? Will a vaccine be widely available? When will COVID-19 capacity limits be lifted? There are a lot of question marks.
But atop the new casino is the word Live with an exclamation point. It might be hard to fully envision now, 10 months into a catastrophic pandemic, capital “L” live exclamation point. “When you put the name ‘Live’ on the side of your building, the name has a meaning to people,” said Maesano.
“When something is live, there is a certain cachet or expectation. It’s high energy, exciting, anything can happen at any moment. Because our name is Live! we have a dedication and marketing plan that services that belief from our customer. This place will be hopping 24/7. We don’t do what other casinos do. Everybody does the generic giveaways but we do it with ‘Live!’ in mind. How do we make it unique and infuse something extra?
“So when a customer walks into this facility, something magical is going to happen. We work very hard to live up to the Live! ‘Anything can happen at any moment’ philosophy. That’s why there is the exclamation point.”