First Impressions: Reactions to Now-Open South Philly Live! Casino Overall Positive

Posted on February 13, 2021 - Last Updated on February 14, 2021

Hours before the whoop-de-do of a formal ribbon-cutting for Live! Casino Philadelphia, I tried gauging patrons’ reactions  not to sports icons Dr. J, Ron Jaworski and Charlie Manuel cutting a ribbon, but to the casino itself and its amenities.

Reviews were mostly good, but in Philly fashion, most of those who spoke wanted some more time before making a final commitment.

“Too soon to judge”

“It is still too soon to judge,” said one employee in true Philly skeptic style as he caught a smoke in the parking garage.

After another puff and more contemplation, he added, “But it looks like they are catching up to Atlantic City,” alluding to the cluster of aging casino properties 58 miles to the east.

The former employee of in-town competitor Rivers Casino Philadelphia in Fishtown, which is about six miles away from the Stadium District where Live! is situated, said he got “a small increase” in pay when he moved.

But he added that the job was better for him at Live! and the patrons like the sparkling new facility.

Clean and friendly

Robert Berry of Runnemede, one of those South Jersey suburbs in Philly’s gravitational pull, was decked out in only a light Phillies baseball jacket despite the chill as he took spins on a slot machine.

Berry was down — maybe $500 — but still happy with Live!, a comfortable ride to a cleaner and more friendly place than where he had mostly gone previously, he said. Still, he wished it was baseball season, his preferred pastime.

View of a rated player at Live!

Bill and Shirley are high-end players. While he sometimes plays craps, it is her time at slot machines that earned their status.

When they lived in mid-NJ, that meant Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem.

But when they moved to Wayne in the Philly suburbs, they migrated to Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, where they are treated like royalty since they sometimes drop $10,000 on an overnight trip.

They see that level of play more as entertainment than gambling, since they know the odds are always in favor of the house. In return, they get food, drinks, and concerts — something they’ve been missing during COVID-19 precautions.

Though Live! just opened, they’ve already stayed at a comped suite repeatedly. He’s a specialized engineer, so he can work on his laptop from their suite while his wife is playing.

Rated players want more amenities

First and most importantly, there is no set-aside lounge space dedicated to rated players where they can quickly get food or drink without standing in a queue.

They are accustomed to grabbing an armload of top wines from the rewards store at Hard Rock. Instead, at Live!, they have to stand in line to buy a glass of wine.

The Prime Rib, Live!’s top restaurant, has yet to open, so no comped meals there yet either.

They like the host assigned by Live!, but he “doesn’t have all the tools” their host in AC has at his disposal, said Bill.

“It’s a learning curve. They aren’t good yet,” he added.

Shirley likes the community they have developed in Atlantic City among other similar levels of players.

“It’s a culture,” she said, slapping a slot button.

All you need to know about the new Live! Casino

PlayPennsylvania recently published a three-part lead-up series highlighting all you can expect from the newest Philadelphia casino. Catch up here:

Lead image courtesy of Live! Casino Philadelphia.

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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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