Hey South Jersey gamblers, is it going to be Atlantic City or the new Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia located in the heart of the South Philly sports complex?
Finally, following years of delays, residents residing in the western portion of South Jersey (technically all of NJ) have an alternative option. Live! is gearing up for its Feb. 11 grand opening.
For many, this means a shorter commute versus taking the Atlantic City Expressway. But will it be enough to convince loyal AC customers to head in he opposite direction across the Walt Whitman Bridge?
Play NJ caught up with Mario Maesano, senior vice president marketing for Live!, to discuss where the project currently stands, the South Jersey market, and more.
Is Live! Casino & Hotel open for gambling?
The short answer is yes.
The property is open to Live! Rewards Club members. Call it a reservation only preview period before the general public arrives. But in order to visit the property, guests will need to book date and time online
The sign-up process includes answering screening questions related to COVID-19 protocols.
“We’re effectively open. Our restaurants and our gaming floor is open for cash business,” said Maesano.
And the Live! team is expecting NJ residents will come to check things out. The casino hotel is centrally located footsteps away from where the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers play home games (and one day, hopefully in 2021, fans will be permitted again).
“With the four major brands and four major teams, literally in our backyard or we’re in their backyard, really gives us, I think, a competitive advantage, both the other Philadelphia casinos, as well as being able to attract people from the Western Jersey market,” said Maesano.
And as far as the “western Jersey market” goes, the area includes Sicklerville (in Gloucester County) and down toward Hammonton, located in the western portion of Atlantic County.
“… Hopefully, give people at minimum a second thought of heading to the shore versus coming here,” said Maesano.
What does the property offer?
Besides it being Philly’s first and only hotel casino, visitors will find a little bit of everything inside the 510,0000-square-foot facility. Here is a breakdown of the gaming floor:
- More than 2,100 slot machines
- 150 live -action table games
- 29 table poker room
- FanDuel Sportsbook
As far as dining goes, there are a number of different options:
- The Prime Rib
- Luk Fu
- Sports & Socially Philly
- 10th Street Market
Live! also features an “upscale” 12-story hotel with a tad over 200 rooms along with a 15,000 square foot event center.
FanDuel Sportsbook expands across the river
Live! is also teaming up with FanDuel Sportsbook, the NJ sports betting market leader. Sure, the majority of wagering is done va the mobile app, but adding a retail component that is a short drive away for many South Jersey residents could quickly become a major draw.
Besides being the Garden State’s top mobile operator, FanDuel runs NJ’s top performing retail sportsbook out of the Meadowlands Racetrack. In 2020 alone, the license holder led the state with $22.5 million in retail revenue.
The key is building something that will attract the sports viewing and wagering crowd. Live! is partnering with FanDuel because “they’re biggest, they’re the best, they’re the most reputable.”
Maesano said it’s “really a marriage made in heaven, and really adds value to our asset, to have FanDuel on property, especially with the [four Philly pro sports] teams right outside.”
There are 30-plus FanDuel-branded kiosks located throughout Live! Casino & Hotel. However, customers will find the sports betting experience blended with dining and entertainment inside of Sports & Social.
“It’s a very unique and attractive complex. … It’s an elevated sports lounge with high-end food, comfortable seating, mega screens all over the room. And we actually put FanDuel within that venue,” said Maesano.
And the combo unit includes betting windows inside of the actual restaurant, similar to Borgata’s BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar.
Basically, Live! is integrating FanDuel into this entire facility
The FanDuel Sportsbook and Sports & Social at Live! Casino Philadelphia.
I can’t wait to come back and see people in DeVonta Smith jerseys. pic.twitter.com/Lik220WzNr
— Katie Kohler (@kkohler1129) January 19, 2021
COVID-19 safety measures
So while there is plenty of buzz surrounding Live!, opening in 2021 comes with its share of challenges.
Like New Jersey, Pennsylvania casinos are required to follow state protocols regarding the number of guests allowed on the casino floor and inside restaurants.
On top of the Keystone State guidelines, Live! is implementing its Play It Safe program. This includes vigorous hygiene and health measures.
Remember, the entire Live! structure was still being built when the pandemic hit. And as a result, Maesano notes they were able to “retrofit the entire operation pretty much from the ground up to be COVID safe, above and beyond anything our competitors do.”
“We have a state of the art HVAC system, they call it AtmosAir that actually rotates or exchanges the air in our facility, 12 times an hour, which is double the recommended exchange rate of from the CDC and the state. …
“Secondly, we installed an automated social distancing system on our slot products that when you sit down at a slot machine, it will automatically shut down the machines on either side of you so that nobody can play them until you get up,” said Maesano.
Like some Atlantic City casinos, every guest will pass through a thermal screener located at each of the entrances.
And due to the virus, valet parking is currently not being offered.
Will it be Live! Philadelphia or Atlantic City?
So South Jersey gamblers have a new option. Those who enjoy being footsteps away from the Boardwalk, beach, and Atlantic Ocean will continue visiting Atlantic City.
Maesano, who happens to be from AC, knows all about “the value of the beach and the ocean and the draw that is for the summertime.”
While every market has seasonality, Live! being footsteps away from Citizens Bank Park, the Wells Fargo Center, and Lincoln Financial Field has he potential to become a major year-round attraction. Especially once fans are permitted to attend sporting events and concerts again.
“I think we offer a very viable option for people during the summer to stay back home here in Philadelphia, with the combination of, we’ll be in the midst of Phillies season, hopefully they’ll have a good season next year, and the attraction of our hotel, as well as our gaming amenity and restaurant outlets, I think can keep some of those weekend short trippers to stay home and give us a shot,” said Maesano.
For now, Live! comes with that element of curiosity. And come Feb. 11, everybody from South Jersey and beyond will have the opportunity to check it out.