On June 7, 1963 Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell Park would open its gates to the masses, marking the inception of the parimutuel era in PA. Western Pennsylvanian standby The Meadows would quickly follow suit. But it wouldn’t be until July 15, 1965 that a newly-minted horse racing venue in Wilkes-Barre would triumphantly proclaim: “Harness racing in Pennsylvania is here to stay.”
Constructed over a five year period spanning the early-1960s, Pocono Downs was co-founders James and Anna Jean Durkin’s $7 million love letter to the sport of horse racing. A testament to how integral a role horse racing plays in the Pennsylvanian way of life, the track’s inaugural race drew a staggering 12,000 bettors and reporters, all of whom enthusiastically cheered for their favorite equine.
In the years that followed, Pocono Downs would become notorious for its rich stakes races and exceedingly fast red clay 5/8th mile oval.
The track expanded its array of offerings in 1970, when thoroughbred racing was first introduced. Two years later, the city of Wilkes-Barre was devastated by the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes.
To the surprise of most, Pocono Downs was quickly converted into an evacuation center, its grounds temporary shelter to those who lost their homes and belongings. The track’s staunch commitment to its community was one of the primary reasons Wilkes-Barre suffered no flood-related causalities.
Fast forward more than two decades later and the now aging track was sold to Penn National Gaming Inc. for $47 million. But it wouldn’t be until 2005 that Pocono Downs would begin evolving into the gambling and entertainment Mecca that it is today.
That year, the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority purchased the facilities for $280 million. No stranger to running a successful casino operation, the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut had already launched its first entertainment epicenter, the aptly titled Mohegan Sun, nine years earlier.
Thanks to the Mohegan’s aggressive expansion strategy, in 2006 the newly-branded Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs would be dubbed the first racino in Pennsylvania.
By 2010, more than 80 tables games sprinkled the casino floor. And more recently, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs underwent its third overhaul in seven years, this time via the opening of a new hotel and convention center.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs a vacationers delight
Situated a bit further out than most eastern-Pennsylvania casinos, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is a bit of a hard sell to residents in and around the New York and Philadelphia areas. But its accessibility from I-81 from the North and I-476 from the East make it an ideal location for those residing in Binghamton or relaxing in the nearby Poconos.
Surrounded by lush conversations, swatches of mountains and state game lands, Mohegan Sun is a perfect hideaway for the outdoorsy type who relishes a high-octane nightlife. And for New Yorkers truly wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is just an additional 15-20 minute car ride away from PA’s two most traversed casinos: Parx and Sands.
Mohegan Sun’s revenue tends towards average
Although it only ranked seventh out of Pennsylvania’s eleven casinos in slot revenue for 2012, Mohegan Sun’s 2,331 slot machines are significantly fewer than the upwards of 3,000 housed by the state’s top three slot revenue generators.
Reaping an annual take of nearly $239 million in slots alone, each machine at Mohegan Sun yields an average profit of approximately $280 per day. Compare that to PA powerhouses Parx and Sands, which average $301 and $259 respectively, and it becomes readily apparent that Mohegan Sun is more than holding its own against PA’s heavy hitters.
At $39 million in annual revenue, the casino’s table games take ranks slightly higher (6th) among PA casinos than does its slots. Impressive, considering that the casino – which touts itself more as an all-encompassing entertainment venue more than a gambling facility – boasts less than half the table games of Parx and approximately one-third less than Harrah’s Philadelphia and Sands.
About Mohegan Tribe Gaming Authority
The Mohegan Tribe Gaming Authority (MTGA) is more or less the gaming voice of the Uncasville, CT based Mohegan Tribe.
Situated on a 507-acre reservation, the MTGA conducts and regulates all gaming related matters associated with the Tribe, including the daily operations of the Mohegan’s 185-acre gaming and casino mega-complex in Uncasville. Downs Racing, L.P is a subsidiary of the MTGA, with focuses on the tribes foray into the Keystone State.
Among the first to bring tribal gaming to New England and the Mid-Atlantic, the MTGA in some ways represents gambling’s new guard. Instead of limiting its targeted demographic to elderly slot junkets and superstitious dice lovers, the two Mohegan Sun’s are set-up as fully-stocked entertainment venues – evident by their wealth of restaurants, shopping destinations, cabarets and nightclubs.
In turn, the casinos attract patrons of all ages and backgrounds, providing as much entertainment value for families with little interest in gaming as they do for high-rollers.
Casino games spread at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Mohegan Sun spreads an adequate mix of standard issue and oft-kilter table games.
Casual gamers will be drawn to more traditional offerings such as Blackjack, Roulette and Craps, while the hardcore gambler might be more interested in gamblers games like Let it Ride, Three Card Poker and two variants of Baccarat.
Like its flagship casino, Mohegan Sun’s little sister boasts a modicum of games with roots in the Far East such as Pai Gow Poker. Lesser known game Big Six Wheel rounds out the casino’s table games menu.
Poker room caters to tournament and online players
Featuring a rather middling 18 poker tables, the most impressive facet of Mohegan Sun’s poker room is its active and varied daily tournament schedule. With buy-ins running the gamut from $18 satellites to Saturday’s $225 black chip tourneys, Mohegan Sun’s tournaments will appeal to both the amateur poker player and serious grinder alike.
Extras incentives include an often six-figure bad beat jackpot and three types of Sit and Goes.
It also appears that Mohegan Sun has its eye on one day entering the iGaming arena, indicative of its well publicized free online poker site.
The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs advantage
Outside of its newly-christened 238 room hotel, there’s little about Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs that truly stands out. But what it lacks in wow factor it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness.
Through its modern amenities, varied casino games, semi-regular horse races, and numerous family-oriented entertainment outlets, .