Mike Kern covers the “soft” launch which is Tuesday and Wednesday - soon it will be round the clock
Steve Schwarz is a resident of Bensalem. So he’d been waiting for this moment for awhile. He was hardly alone.
On Tuesday, Parx Casino on Street Road had the “soft” opening of its sports book, which for now is a converted bar/club. The official ribbon-cutting will take place on Thursday afternoon. And in the late spring or early summer, its new $10 million permanent addition should be ready to take over. With a beer garden. And it will be significantly bigger. But for the time being, what they have is enough.
And Schwarz got to place the first bet at one of the seven windows. He was actually third in line, but the people ahead of him, for whatever reasons, took too much time to do their thing. That’s how Schwarz became a trivial pursuit answer.
“Excellent,” he said, after being surrounded by the assembled media who showed up to mark the occasion. “I have some friends coming over (Sunday) for a party to watch the (Eagles-Saints playoff) game. This has been a long time coming. I used to go to Las Vegas. Now I don’t have to. I live five minutes away.”
For the record Schwarz has the over, which is 50 1/2 points.
“With the Eagles’ secondary, I had to go this way,” he said, with a smile. “I don’t think the Bears had the players to take advantage of them. Go Eagles. I can’t wait to come back and collect. I don’t want to push my action yet. But I think I’ll be here pretty often.
“It’s not quite like Las Vegas. And I’m not sure it’ll ever be that way . . . I prefer online (betting). I’m sure I’ll do that for convenience (when it becomes legal in Pennsylvania). But I’ll come here (too).
“I wanted to see what it was like. So I just cruised over and got in line. I’m happy I could finally do it. I’ll be rooting like crazy.”
Parx joins SugarHouse, on the riverfront in Fishtown, as the two places you can do this in the Philly area. Next week Parx plans to also open the book at the Turf Club in South Philly near the stadium complex. And later do the same with the facility in the western suburbs.
The book at Parx has eight huge television screens fronted by a long bar. It’s a little intimate, but again, it’s more than sufficient. There are about a dozen kiosk machines that can take bets as well. The hours for Tuesday and Wednesday are 2-10 p.m. Soon it will be ‘round the clock.
One TV was showing the Golf Channel. Another had a replay of the Eagles-Bears wild-card game. And then there was a cooking show. Yo, whatever. Kevin Morrell came from East Falls, which is 22 miles away. Which means about a 40-minute drive up the Roosevelt Boulevard. “It beats taking 95,” he quickly noted. He brought his 88-year-old uncle Louis with him.
He used one of the machines, with a little help from one of the many casino people stationed around the room for exactly that purpose. Did we mention that you can visit their website and set up an account that will allow you to put bets into the system and just show up to scan your code? That way you can skip the lines and save time.
Morrell put five bucks on the Eagles to win outright. If they do he’ll get back nearly 20.
“I never placed sports bets before, even as a kid,” he said. “But I think it’s a good thing. They got it in Jersey. I went to Vegas like seven years ago and the Eagles were maybe 200-1 just to make the playoffs. So this is different.
“It is a little intricate (using the kiosk). If I didn’t have help I might have been there for a couple of days. I can play the lottery off machines. Then if I make a mistake it’s on me . . . I just want to see them win.
“My uncle was an Eagles season-ticket holder in 1960 (when they were NFL champions). We usually come up to play the penny slots. It gives us something to do. My family lives up here. The Irish side. The Italians stayed down there. I think they knew what they were doing. But it’s all good.”
How can it not be? Give the public what it wants, right?
Just to feel like part of the story, I threw a spare 20 (imagine that) on the Eagles to score first on a field goal, at 5-1. Yes, I used the kiosk. And I did require a bit of assistance. For those who know me, that’s hardly a surprise.
Let’s go Jake Elliott, on the opening drive. I’m now your biggest fan. So don’t go Cody Parkey on me.
My luck Nick Foles will take them down the field for a touchdown. But I’d be OK with that too. So would Schwarz and Morrell. And I’m assuming a whole lot of others just like them.
As first steps go, it sure beats the heck out of what wasn’t there before.