Valley Forge Casino is the smallest casino in Pennsylvania by square footage, but that hasn’t stopped it from making some big moves.
In November 2017, Valley Forge paid $1 million to the state so guests no longer have to pay a $10 resort fee to enter.
Boyd Gaming Corporation acquired Valley Forge Casino in December 2017. The Las Vegas, Nevada-based gaming company finalized the $280.5 million deal in September 2017, then added 250 new slot machines.
In January 2020, Valley Forge Casino reported $21.6 million in revenue. The reason for the eye-popping 92% YoY increase? About 40% came from sports betting.
Then the coronavirus pandemic happened, and Valley Forge was the first casino to close its doors in the spring.
With recovery underway, Boyd’s stock price (BYD) has rebounded strongly. After dropping under $8 in mid-March, $BYD hit a high of around $50 just a week ago.
Although Valley Forge might be small in size, it has a mighty partner — FanDuel, the DFS giant turned sports betting behemoth.
FanDuel rules PA
Since August 2019, FanDuel has taken the most bets of any sportsbook operator in Pennsylvania each month.
During the 2019-20 fiscal year, FanDuel online sportsbook accounted for 49% of all online wagers placed in PA. In total during fiscal year 2019-20, the PA sports betting app took $968.7 million in bets and made $39.4 million in revenue.
When FanDuel launched in PA in late June 2019, it was the fourth online sportsbook. Now, there are 13. DraftKings has held a firm grip on the No. 2 spot since arriving in the fall of 2019. Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released monthly figures for December 2020. FanDuel again was the leader for handle, but newcomer Barstool online sportsbook posted the highest revenue ($14 million) with an almost unheard-of 20% hold.
Despite increased competition, six months into the 2020-21 fiscal year, FanDuel has nearly reached its total handle and already surpassed its total revenue from last year. After six months, it has taken $946.8 million in bets and posted $49.5 million in revenue.
FanDuel’s retail sportsbook is right near the main entrance at Valley Forge Casino. It opened in March 2019, and at 1,800 square feet, it’s a small sportsbook with a big name. Even with being closed for three weeks in December, FanDuel’s retail sportsbook has generated $2 million in revenue this fiscal year. It’s already exceeded 2019-20 FY revenue ($1.4 million).
On partnership with FanDuel: “You can’t put a number on it”
In an interview with PlayPennsylvania, Valley Forge Casino General Manager David Zerfing talked about the casino’s partnership with FanDuel, recovery after a disruptive 2020 and how the casino plans to stay competitive.
PlayPA: It’s a cliche, but it’s also very true: Valley Forge’s Casino’s partnership with FanDuel has been a home run.
Zerfing: Absolutely. FanDuel has retail books throughout the world and is a huge retail operator. They are the No. 1 sports operator both online and retail. At the corporate level, Boyd realized … long before sports betting started in Pennsylvania that they needed a partner for retail and online. They went out and got the thousand-pound gorilla, and it has benefited the company.
PlayPA: With online casinos and sportsbooks launching in Pennsylvania, how important is it to Valley Forge to have a partner like FanDuel, especially after a year like 2020 when the brick-and-mortar casino was closed for about a third of the year?
Zerfing: It is the most important thing. If we tried to go out and do it with our own name, we would never have been able to. Boyd’s name is huge, but FanDuel’s expertise in this area is unprecedented. Being able to use them and their expertise in terms of marketing and new sign-ups — they understand how to grow the market, [and] you can’t put a number on how important that is.
Casino recovery during and after a pandemic
PlayPA: Valley Forge was the first casino to close in Pennsylvania in March 2020. How would you describe 2020 at the property?
Zerfing: For everything we went through, we were successful. Our focus since we have reopened has been entirely different than before. It’s about the safety of our team members and our guests. A lot of things you would normally do to drive business, you don’t even think of it because it’s all about safety. It’s a different way of operating, and I think we are all looking forward to the day we are not operating like that.
PlayPA: In 2021, for Valley Forge and all casinos, what are the keys to recovery?
Zerfing: Recovery starts to happen when restrictions start getting lifted and people feel safe. I think there is definitely a group of individuals who aren’t frequenting casinos or restaurants, especially the elderly, who have not taken part in any activity due to COVID, and there is a pent-up demand. The people who have been coming and adhering to the rules, they will be able to have more fun and come more often. Not just us, but for the whole hospitality industry, there’s a demand from people who haven’t been able to partake like they used to and want to.
New competition with Live! Casino Philadelphia
The first new full-size casino in 10 years is in its soft opening stage, with a grand opening planned on Feb. 11. The $700 million Live! Casino Philadelphia brings added competition. Valley Forge Casino was the only casino in the northeast region of Pennsylvania with a hotel. However, it no longer holds that distinction, since Live! Casino has a 208-room, 12-story hotel.
PlayPA: How does Valley Forge Casino plan to compete with Live!?
Zerfing: In the short term, under these conditions, we compete by making people safe when they visit. The customers who visit come because they feel safe, recognize the protocols we put in place and see cleaning happening.
We all have slots and tables. But you can’t compete with the service and the culture we provide our guests. In the long term, we compete with our location, customer service and culture. Many of our customers are repeat customers. They come here because we make them feel at home. They love our level of service and team members. No one can compete against that.
Valley Forge Casino reward program
Valley Forge Casino joined Boyd’s nationwide loyalty program in the fall of 2020. It provides Valley Forge Casino customers access to B Connected, Boyd’s loyalty program. All Valley Forge players club members will be awarded a new B Connected tier level, effective through December 2021. Each year, guests will have 12 months (January through December) to earn an upgraded tier level, and once earned, players will have instant access to that tier level and its associated benefits through the next full calendar year.
B Connected credits and points are earned at Boyd Gaming casinos when playing slots, video poker, table games, poker or sports betting.
Recognized as one of USA Today’s “10 Best” casino loyalty programs nationwide, the B Connected program offers five player tiers:
Rewards and perks grow as players move up through the tiers. B Connected offers members benefits such as:
- Discounts on hotel stays and retail purchases at Boyd Gaming properties.
- Special discounts with exclusive partners.
- Access to annual Boyd Gaming promotions and contests.
“With B Connected, we sought to create a player loyalty program that is truly distinctive and compelling,” said Matt Ryan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Boyd Gaming. “In addition to the wide array of discounts, comps and benefits our customers have come to expect, we’ve added an incredible selection of trips and unique experiences to appropriately recognize and reward our loyal players. From cruises to tropical getaways and even opportunities to earn exclusive sports and entertainment experiences, now, more than ever, it’s truly ‘Good to B Connected.’”
For members of the B Connected network, all tier benefits and B Connected points will be honored at Boyd Gaming properties across the country, including Boyd Gaming destination resorts in Las Vegas, the Gulf Coast and throughout the Midwest.