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Table games debut at Parx, Harrah’s Chester

Suzette Parmley, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 9:56 AM

As one of the first to sample 57 new table games at Parx Casino, Donald Kelley said getting up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday was well worth it.

"I just love craps and I wanted to be the first at the table," said Kelley, 46 of Maple Shade, who ariived just before 6 a.m. Sunday at Parx.

Craps, poker, blackjacks and roulette are officially part of the gambling mix at Parx in Bensalem, Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack in Delaware County, and at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem.

The debut of table games at all three early Sunday completed a triumvirate of staggered openings that began at three western Pennsylvania casinos on July 8.

Regional rivals, Parx and Harrah's Chester, both debuted their new games at 6 a.m., while Sands Bethlehem unveiled 89 tables, including 40 blackjack, 12 poker, four craps and other games two hours later.

The three casinos held test days on Friday for invited guests only and to work out last minute glitches. They received the green light from state regulators Saturday to officially open the table games to the public this morning.

Three central Pennsylvania casinos - Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Mount Airy Resort Casino in the Poconos, and Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg - debuted their table games last Tuesday.

With Sunday's roll out, the number of table games at the nine existing Pennsylvania casinos equals about 700, adding to 24,875 slot machines statewide.

A 10th casino - SugarHouse on the Philadelphia waterfront - is scheduled to open in late September with 40 table games and 1,602 slot machines.

For Parx, the state's top grossing casino, table games are anticipated to help it maintain its dominance not just in the Philadelphia region, but throughout the state. Harrah's Chester consistently comes in second among the nine Pennsylvania casinos, after Parx.

"There's a terrific vibe to the place," said Bob Green, chairman of Greenwood Racing Inc., which owns Parx. "Tables have certainly added to the vibrancy of the room."

Of the 57 tables at Parx, 39 were for blackjack. Green said a new poker room with 30 tables will open in the grandstand area of the former building in the fall, pending approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

At Harrah's Chester, the excitement level was just as high as 99 table games, including a 25-table poker room, were unveiled. The casino also added an Asian noodle bar as part of the expansion.

Terria Briggans, 38, of Dallas, who is Philadelphia doing contract work for Comcast, was one of the first at a craps table at Harrah's Chester, arriving about 6:15 a.m.

"It's just exciting," she said, about Sunday's unveiling of table games. "It's fun, there's a lot of energy in the room," said Briggans, who played for about three hours at the craps table while her co-worker, Ann Brown, 43, also of Dallas, worked the slot machine nearby.

Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

Suzette Parmley, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

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