Have The Updated Parx and Sands Poker Rooms Grown The Overall PA Poker Market?

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This year, both Parx Casino and Sands Bethlehem completed major renovations of their card rooms, kitting them out with luxury furnishings, dozens of flat screen TVs and a bevy of other upgrades.

But while player reaction to the new spaces has been positive, the updated facilities have not grown the poker industry overall in the state. In fact, compared with the first six months of 2017, PA poker revenue is down just over 5%.

Parx revenue underwhelms

Located in Philadelphia, Parx is the undisputed king of poker in the Keystone State. In 2017, the casino raked in nearly $16 million, around $6 million more than Sands, its closest competitor.

In January, the property debuted its brand-new card room, now located in the main casino building, just a short distance away from banks of slots and table games. The poker room was part of a major expansion that included the Xcite Center, an entertainment venue built with the goal of attracting non-gamblers to the area.

The remodel also gave the casino the chance to trim the fat a bit, by cutting down its total tables from 80 to 48. The excess tables are not especially missed, as they mostly remained empty anyhow.

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While expectations for the room have been high, revenue since launch has not been especially impressive. From January to June of this year, the card room has banked slightly less than it did during the same timeframe in 2017. In fact, it has posted year-over-year losses in five of the six months it has been in operation.

There was a bright spot in March, however, when the overall take jumped by 20% Y/Y to $1,726,498. The bump coincided with the running of the casino’s popular Big Stax tournament series, which kicks off again this month, and which will certainly have another positive effect on earnings.

The following month, however, revenue slid once again, down 8.29% year-on-year.

Sands doesn’t move the needle either

Sands put the finishing touches on its own poker room in March, with the new digs opening to the public in April.

While welcomed by poker players, the Sands card room renovation was more about rearranging the gaming floor in order to add additional casino games to the previous poker area. With the move, the property can place 14 more traditional banking tables, 29 more stadium gaming terminals and 74 more slot machines in the space.

Like Parx, Sands hasn’t seen much of a benefit in terms of poker revenue since the April launch. During that time, the casino has raked in $2,660,476, over $1 million less than it did during the same period last year.

It’s also interesting to note that, starting in January 2017, the poker room saw eight straight months of year-over-year growth. But things have taken a turn for the worse, with monthly revenue decreasing for nine straight months beginning last October.

If it’s any consolation, June revenue was only down slightly, just 1.22% Y/Y. As more people discover the new room, that number could improve.

Is Parx cannibalizing competitors?

Certainly the lavish new poker rooms have concerned competitors in surrounding areas.

In the case of Parx, SugarHouse and Harrah’s are the casino’s closest neighbors, and would have the most reason to worry. So did the new room have any effect on their bottom line?

Since the start of the year, SugarHouse has posted Y/Y losses in four of six months. Yet prior to that, the poker room saw monthly growth for seven straight months. In December, the SugarHouse card room was up 11.63% year–on-year, but when Parx launched, that number dropped to 3.86%. It continued to go downhill from there.

It’s plausible that the new Parx card room could have lured some SugarHouse players away.

Harrah’s poker revenue is also on a downward slide, but that began many months before Parx unveiled its new poker space. In the last year and a half, Harrah’s has only enjoyed two months of Y/Y increases, the latest coming in January. In April, May and June of this year its poker room has suffered double-digit monthly decreases.

As the poker room at Harrah’s has been underperforming for some time, it’s hard to say that Parx’s new room is the cause. Of course, it’s clear that, at the very least, the new digs would not have a positive effect.

The biggest loser

Hollywood Casino in Grantville, located about a two hour drive from Parx and a one hour drive from Sands, seems to have suffered the most from the launch of the two updated poker rooms.

The casino’s card room was on a hot streak last year, regularly posting Y/Y gains in the 20-30% range. That began to change last August, but got much worse in January, when Parx opened its room open to the public.

From January to June 2017, Hollywood banked $343,658, while so far this year, it has only taken in $291,157. January began spelling big trouble for the poker room, and the bleeding hasn’t stopped since. In each of the first five months of the year, the casino has posted over 20% decreases in revenue, with the biggest coming in April, when Sands launched its own remodeled room.

It certainly likely that card players who had previously frequented Hollywood now favor driving out to Sands and Parx, to enjoy the new digs. Then again, considering that Parx and Sands aren’t exactly killing it since opening their new poker rooms, it could just be that Pennsylvania gamblers have lost some interest in poker, at least for now.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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