The Casino File: As Live! Philadelphia prepares to welcome the public, we take a sneak peek at what’s inside
The wait is almost over.
So, what awaits those who venture to the city’s second gaming hall—and the first to open in Southeastern Pennsylvania since the dice started rolling at Sugarhouse (now Rivers Casino Philadelphia) in September, 2010?
The top takeaway from a Thursday afternoon tour of the $700 million adult playpen that sits on Packer Avenue between 10th and Darien streets on the northern edge of South Philly’s stadium district is that it appears to be a user-friendly facility. The ground floor casino and its attendant amenities are laid out in such a manner as to make everything—a fabulous-looking 29-table poker room, multiple bars and restaurants, high-limit slot and table-game salons—easy to find and all within proximity of each other (a claim many casinos around the country can’t necessarily make). The space is certainly compact relative to some casinos in the region, but it's arranged in such a way that it feels comfortable, not cramped—although the true test will come when bodies fill the floor.
The ultra-modern—one might even call it “space-agey”--interior design is visually arresting and festive. Unique touches include a 150-foot-long video art installation embedded in the underside of the canopy that crowns the main (Darien Street) entrance, and a lobby piece that is a whimsical take on Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture in which the slanted “O” has been replaced by a similarly positioned exclamation point.
The 100,000-square-foot gambling parlor is anchored by the Center Bar, so christened because it is the hub around which the rest of the action revolves. It’s here that live entertainment will be offered on a nightly basis year-round; it seems like it’s destined to be quite the spot to see and be seen.
That can also be said of Sports & Social, the property’s party pit that combines the FanDuel-branded sports book with the traditional sports-bar concept. It boasts a menu that Mario Maesano, the casino’s senior vice president of marketing, promised will deliver “an elevated level of food” beyond standard sports-bar fare.
As reported here previously, Live! Philly’s inventory of amenities also include more than 2,100 machines; 150 tables; the Prime Rib, steakhouse (moved to the gambling den after a 22-year-run inside the city’s venerable Warwick Hotel, the Southeast Asia-centric Luk Fu (pronounced “luck foo”), a taqueria and burger station both from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives star Guy Fieri, Morty’s Deli, a New York-style sandwich shop as well as quick-eats offerings from three Philly mainstays, Chinatown’s Sang Kee Peking Duck House, Termini Brothers Bakery and Lorenzo and Sons Pizza.
Still to be completed is a 15,000-square-foot Event Center. Located on the second level, the space will host entertainment programs as well as meetings and conventions and special events.
The 12-story tower—the town’s first casino-hotel--features 208 luxury rooms and suites equipped with all the modern amenities expected of such a building. Reservations can be made by calling (267) 833-472-5483 (toll free) or at www.LiveCasinoHotelPhilly.com.
Of course, nothing happens anywhere these days without the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the planning and construction of Live! are no exceptions. Maesano noted that a heavy emphasis has been placed on safety with the implementation of what has been dubbed the “Play It Safe” campaign.
According to Maesano, because The Cordish Companies, Live!’s Baltimore-based developer-majority owner, is a privately held entity, it was able to allot a significant amount of money to prioritize health protocols without stockholders braying about the bottom line. Chief among these strategies is a state-of-the-art HVAC system called AtmosAir. “It rotates the air in the facility 12 times, which is double the recommended flow, and which will kill 99.9 percent of coronavirus germs in the air,” he explained.
Another preventative measure is the installation of the “Real Clear” system. “It’s an automated slot social-distancing system,” said Maesano. “When you sit down at a slot machine, it will automatically disable machines on either side of you, thereby forcing social distancing.”
In addition, “ticket-in, ticket-out” systems for table games will cut down on the need to handle gaming chips (it’s the same arrangement that replaced coins in slot machines).
As Atlantic City operators have learned from mass events like beach concerts and the annual Air Show, casino garages can be used by people who have no intention of gambling, dining, etc., thus taking spots that gamblers in which gamblers could park. Because the neighborhood is the site of hundreds of sporting events and concerts each year, it’s logical to assume that Live!’s parking facility will face similar circumstances.
But Maesano explained that Rewards cardholders will be given priority with higher-tiered players being comped. Non-members will have to pay the prevailing rate at other parking lots.