SugarHouse Casino: From riverfront sugar refinery to entertainment destination
Currently the city of brotherly love’s only operating casino, SugarHouse Casino almost didn’t happen.
While owner and operator Rush Street Gaming was awarded a gaming license in December 2006 by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, there were a number of residents in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood where construction was planned who were initially opposed to the casino project.
Groups like Casino Free Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Neighborhood Alliance, and Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront all sought to shut the casino down before it opened. The city’s groups even received the support of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who went as far as revoking the SugarHouse license in January 2008, claiming a casino may not be the best use for the Delaware River land where SugarHouse was planning to build.
SugarHouse Casino ultimately got the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to rule its construction permits were legal and broke ground on the project in October 2009.
The first phase of the $550 million, 1.3 million-square-foot casino complex, located on the site of the former Jack Frost Sugar Refinery, opened to the public in September 2010.
It started out with a 1,600-machine slot parlor and a number of retail and dining outlets. The facility began an expansion in 2014, adding additional gaming floor space, restaurants, and a parking garage. The expansion opened in May 2016.
Future plans for the facility include a 500-room hotel and spa, a 30,000-square-foot event center, and even more dining and retail facilities.
The casino currently boasts more than 2,000 slots, over 60 table games and the Poker Night in America Poker Room, featuring 28 poker tables and 24/7 action.
Casino games at SugarHouse Casino
The quantity of slot machines at SugarHouse is not all that impressive, but it has more than its fair share of table games relative to other PA casinos.
Traditional casino games such as blackjack, roulette, and craps are all well represented. Plus, SugarHouse offers gamblers the chance to try their hand at a variety of more unique casino games, including:
- 3 Card Poker
- Spanish 21
- High Card Flush
- EZ Pai Gow Poker
- Pai Gow Tiles
- Mini/Midi Baccarat
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Asia Poker
- Mississippi Stud
- Criss Cross Poker
- Sic Bo
- Heads Up Hold’em
- The Big Six
- Four Card Poker
SugarHouse also hosts Stadium Gaming, allowing gamblers to play live blackjack, roulette, or baccarat with each other featuring electronic betting through personal gaming terminals.
The Poker Night in America Poker Room
Leveraging the brand recognition from the top-rated poker TV show, the Poker Night in America Poker Room at SugarHouse features 28 poker tables.
The room also features 24/7 food options, in-seat text-to-order food service, and complimentary alcoholic beverages for all active players.
Action is also 24 hours a day and includes No Limit Hold’em games with blinds from $1/$2 to $2/$5, and $5/$5 Pot Limit Omaha. Other games are also available upon request.
The room also runs a regular tournament and promotions calendar.
PA’s fourth highest grossing casino
While SugarHouse was third in table game revenues in the state behind perennial state casino revenue leaders Parx Casino and Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in 2016, it really lags behind in terms of slot machine revenues.
Despite it’s Philadelphia location giving it the potential for much more, SugarHouse collected just a little over $181 million in slot revenues in 2016. In comparison, state slot revenue leader Parx brought in more than $389 million.
Overall, SugarHouse total casino revenues for 2016 ranked fourth behind Parx, Sands, and another Rush Street property, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, as a result of the small slot numbers.
About Rush Street Gaming
Rush Street was formed when Chicago real estate developer Neil Bluhm met Chicago financier Greg Carlin in the 1990s.
They formed a partnership to pursue a contract to build a casino in Niagara Falls, Canada, that ultimately saw them build and operate the Fallsview Casino Resort for the provincial government there.
Now, Rush Street has spawned numerous casino, internet gaming, restaurant, and hotel projects. Plus it runs a television production company responsible for the popular show “Poker Night in America.”
In addition to the SugarHouse Casino, Rush Street now owns and operates Rivers Casino properties in Pittsburgh, Des Plaines, Ill., and the newly opened Rivers Schenectady in New York. Plus, through the Golden Nugget internet gaming license, Rush Street owns operates it’s own legal and regulated New Jersey online casino site.
The SugarHouse Casino Advantage
Its proximity to the most populous city in the state makes SugarHouse Casino a top tier PA casino right out of the gate. Rush Street’s continued expansion of the property doesn’t hurt either.
With a number if suburban casinos surrounding Philadelphia, and plans to open up a new one near Philadelphia’s sports stadiums, SugarHouse Casino faces a lot of competition. However, the owners continue to put capital into the casino so that they can compete.
Early adopters with an eye on what’s next, SugarHouse is already online in New Jersey and all signs point to the property being one of the first to join the list of Pennsylvania online casinos. Once that happens, the cross promotions will begin, and should keep both the online and live SugarHouse casinos a popular Philadelphia-area destination for years to come.