Lawyers for three off-track betting sites tied to Parx Casino and Racing have quietly sought permission to relocate the licenses of sites in:
- South Philly (Turf Club)
- Upper Darby in Delaware County
- Montgomery County (The Oaks)
Petitions filed with Pennsylvania regulators ask for approval to move the sports betting and pari-mutuel sites to Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurants, a popular casual eating and sports bar chain.
The petitions hint that betting sites at additional locations may be sought in the future with Parx’s additional licenses.
With the ascent of retail and online sports betting and online horse betting in PA, combined with several months of COVID-19 disruptions, few OTB locations remain open.
Parx sought expedited approval without public input
Petitions seeking the changes expressly asked the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission to approve the requests “on an expedited basis” and “without requiring a written public comment period or public comment hearing.”
The current locations are closed or struggling, which is clear in the redacted petitions provided to PlayPennsylvania by the racing commission:
“The partnership and the OTB relocations will reinvigorate … off-track betting operations, bring a new set of customers to the pari-mutuel wagering industry and increase pari-mutuel wagering revenues. Such partnerships, with the built-in potential new customer base and marketing synergies they offer, represent a viable model for the future of off-track facilities.
“Absent the ability to co-locate facilities and take advantage of such relationships, the OTB concept will face significant challenges and continued closures, as the old model is not sustainable given current patron trends and existing facilities that are too large for the market.”
Parx lawyer responds
Mark Stewart, a Harrisburg-based lawyer for Parx, spoke with PlayPennsylvania. Stewart said the current stand-alone OTB model is not the best concept. The proposed moves would allow Parx to modernize its OTB offerings, he added.
Parx already has Chickie’s & Pete’s wagering operations at the casino in Bensalem, Bucks County and Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County, NJ. The companies are looking to build on that experience, said Stewart.
The gambling spaces would be separate from regular dining areas within the restaurant. Only those above the age of 21 could enter.
Stewart said his client sought no public comment because plans “are very similar, in our view” to what is already allowed.
Shannon Powers, a spokeswoman for the race commission, said there is no decision yet on the request. She added the law is open-ended about allowing for public comment or a hearing in such circumstances.
An agenda for the race commission typically comes out just a few days before a board meeting. The next meeting is on Feb. 23.
Sports wagering will come with horse racing
Approving pari-mutuel wagering automatically allows an applicant to also add sports wagering. That is according to Doug Harbach, the spokesman for Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Once the pari-mutuel license changes get approval from the racing commission, the PGCB’s sole role is to test and approve sports betting systems and technology, he added.
Details from the OTB move petitions
The petitions released by the racing commission redact financial information.
According to one petition, the shuttered Oaks Race and Sportsbook would move operations to 10-20 Liberty Boulevard, East Whiteland Township, where a new Chickie’s & Pete’s is planned. The proposed location is in Chester County.
The Turf Club location at 150 S. 69th St. in Upper Darby had closed a decade ago. The petition seeks to relocate those operations to the Chickie’s and Pete’s at Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center at 5035 Township Line Road in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby.
The South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook, better known as the Turf Club at 700 Packer Avenue, wants to move up the street to Chickie’s and Pete’s South Philadelphia location at 1526 Packer Avenue.
For a look at one of the full petitions (for The Oaks), see below.
‘This is exhausting,’ civic leader says
A local South Philly civic club leader adamantly opposes the move and the attempt to stifle public comment. She learned of the proposal because a zoning approval is necessary and neighbors got legal notices.
Barbara Capozzi greeted the request for no public comment with “This is exhausting.”
She said she intends to consult with the Packer Park Civic Association‘s lawyer.
No response from Chickie’s & Pete’s
A request for comment from the restaurant chain’s owner, Pete Ciarrocchi, has had no response as yet.