The history of Parx Casino
The story of Parx Casino begins over 40 years ago, when Keystone Racetrack opened for business in Bensalem in 1974. The racetrack experienced a long period of prosperity, and a decade later the racetrack got a new owner, a new turf course, and a new name: Philadelphia Park.
By 1990, racing’s decline took its toll, and the track was purchased by Greenwood Racing. The new owners added simulcasting and off-track betting locations, but the industry was already at the point of no return. The track’s performance suffered.
Philadelphia Park was given a new lease on life when Pennsylvania authorized casino gambling in 2004.
After securing one of Pennsylvania’s coveted slot licenses in 2006, the racetrack needed another new name. The casino portion of the facility opened in 2009, right around the time the property adopted its current name, which honored the old name: Parx Casino and Racing.
Even though Parx is first and foremost a casino, the track portion of Parx is still operational. The facility hosted 153 racing days in 2016 and 170 in 2017.
Parx’s land-based performance
Of the state’s 12 casinos, Parx Casino is the top revenue generator.
The property boasts over 3,300 slot machines, 130 table games and an 80-table poker room.
With a 17 percent market share (see chart below), Parx only has one real rival, Sands Bethlehem.
Parx’s tepid approach to online gambling
Throughout the process, Parx was a veritable thorn in the side of legislative efforts to legalize online gambling.
In 2015, Parx pushed for in-person online registrations, and the casino is largely believed to be the reason the state went with the exorbitant 54 percent tax rate on online slot machines.
Still, Parx has been adamant that if Pennsylvania legalizes online gambling, Parx would be involved.
With backgrounds in European gaming, Parx’s top-level executives understand the online sector as well as anyone in the Pennsylvania market, so don’t expect a ham-handed approach, despite the casino’s seemingly apathetic view of online gambling.
With a knowledgeable team in place, one of the best brands in the Pennsylvania market, and the money to market and advertise, Parx will almost certainly be in the upper tier of Pennsylvania’s online poker/casino providers.
What we know about Parx and online gambling
Parx launched a GAN-powered social casino in early 2015. In March 2015, GAN released a statement indicating the multi-year relationship between Parx and GAN extended to real-money online gambling:
“Throughout the multi-year term of the agreement, Parx Casino will rely exclusively on GameAccount Network’s Internet gaming system, deployed on-property in Pennsylvania, for all forms of real money Internet gaming (including poker, for the avoidance of doubt) in the event the State of Pennsylvania enacts legislation to regulate real money Internet gaming.”
Philadelphia Live! is a joint project between the Cordish Company and Parx’ parent company, Greenway Racing.
After being tied up in court, the project is back on track, thanks to language in the gaming law that legalized online gambling.
Parx will have a loose relationship with Betfair Casino through its platform provider GAN.
Forecasting Parx’ online gambling performance
Parx might only have a single rival on the land-based side. But online gambling is going to be more competitive in Pennsylvania.
Not only will Parx have to deal with Sands (if the casino is sold or the current owners decide to scrap their long-held anti-online gambling stance), but the combined might of Rush Street‘s two Pennsylvania casinos, Rivers (10 percent market share) and SugarHouse (nine percent market share) surpasses Parx’s 17 percent.
Parx is also heavily reliant on slot revenue, and the high online slot tax rate levied by the state may disproportionately harm Parx.
Seventy percent of total casino revenue in FY2016/2017 was slot revenue. Contrast that with Sands (56 percent) or SugarHouse (60 percent).
Rush Street also has a head start on online gambling, as SugarHouse launched its NJ online casino last year.
Bottom line: Parx’s land-based success will be an asset online. But it doesn’t guarantee Parx will be the top, or one of the top online gaming operators in Pennsylvania.