Montgomery County is about to get into the sports-betting business as the region continues to expand its bookmaking options.
Valley Forge Casino Resort and Parx’s turf club in Oaks will open next week just in time for the peak of the college basketball season.
Valley Forge Casino, just off the western tip of the Schuylkill Expressway in King of Prussia, is targeting a soft opening Monday and Tuesday from 2-11 p.m. Customers would be able to wager on sports those days while the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board closely monitors operations.
The official opening, assuming no hiccups, will be Wednesday at noon. Former Eagles tight end Brent Celek will make the ceremonial first bet. FanDuel is running the sportsbook and has the Eagles at 16-1 to win Super Bowl 54, for whatever that’s worth.
But football, at least initially, is not the focus.
“The goal the whole time was to be open for March Madness,” said Jeff Lowich, senior director of retail for FanDuel.
This will be the first national college basketball tournament held since the Supreme Court’s May decision opened sports betting to states outside of Nevada. It’s long been one of the most raucous and popular events on the calendar for Sin City. But what happened in Vegas, is now happening elsewhere.
“It’s hard to understand it until you’ve either been through it or seen it,” Lowich said. “Once you go through that, you don’t want to sit at home and watch a fight or a game on your couch. Whether you’re with friends or even strangers, when you’re in a sportsbook, it’s just fun.”
Las Vegas-based Boyd’s Gaming Corp. completed its purchase of the Valley Forge casino from a private company in September for $280.5 million. This is FanDuel’s first retail presence in the Philadelphia area. It operates the sportsbook at Meadowlands racetrack, but does not have a retail spot in Atlantic City.
Valley Forge will be the only sportsbook in southeastern Pennsylvania inside a hotel. General manager David Zerfing pointed out that Boyd’s pumped in $40 million in renovations since taking over.
"We have a big company that invests in the property to drive business,” Zerfing said. “We didn’t really have that before. We do now.”
Parx will have its soft opening Tuesday-Wednesday, with the official opening slated for next Thursday. A sign offering employment opportunities for everything from cooks and dishwashers to cashiers and a turf-club manager greeted guests last week at the Parx location just off Route 422.
This will mark the third sportsbook for Parx, which also has locations in South Philadelphia and at its main headquarters in Bensalem.
While not inside a hotel, there are two places for lodging within walking distance. These could be key for those who want to spend an entire day at a sportsbook for March Madness.
The first round of college basketball’s annual frenzy will begin just after noon on Thursday, March 21. There will be 48 games that first weekend. Rooms at Valley Forge, as of Thursday afternoon, ranged from $175 to $197 per night for March 21-24.
Love the convenience. Hate the prices.
Eyebrows were raised this week with Major League Baseball’s announcement requiring teams to send their starting lineups to the commissioner’s office. It was first reported that after 15 minutes, that info could then be sent out to the general public.
“MLB’s goal is [to] disseminate starting lineups to everyone at the same time," he wrote. "There is no 15-minute embargo on the information. Once MLB confirms reception of lineups — a quick process — teams can release lineups to the reporters and social media just as they have in the past.”
* Mobile betting is not coming to Pennsylvania anytime soon. Late spring, maybe early summer. “As long as it’s here for football,” said Lowich, of FanDuel.
* The Tropicana will open its 5,000-square-foot sportsbook at the Tropicana at 1 p.m. Friday. It replaces what had been an odd setup of a half-dozen betting tellers right in the middle of the casino’s north floor. The new spot is right next to the old one.
* William Hill-US, which operates the sportsbook at the Tropicana, said 18 percent of the money it has taken is on Duke to win the NCAA Tournament. Virginia is second at 11 percent, Gonzaga third at 10 percent. Gonzaga and Virginia are 6-1, which aren’t terrible odds for likely No. 1 seeds. Villanova opened at 17-2, but is now 60-1.
* William Hill’s three largest liabilities taken from its New Jersey properties are $2,000 on Cincinnati (200-1), $2,000 on Purdue (150-1) and $1,000 on Louisville (250-1). Joe Lunardi had Cincinnati and Louisville as 7 seeds and Purdue as a 3 seed in the projected bracket he posted before Thursday’s games.