Wow! Live! Casino Philadelphia is spectacular.
Having seen the opening of every Atlantic City casino since Harrah’s in Nov. 1980 and having visited half the casinos operating in Pennsylvania, I’m comfortable using the superlative “wow,” along with an exclamation mark.
Live! Casino aims for “affordable luxury”
Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming Group, who was leading much of the tour, said the facility’s aim is “affordable luxury” while also being “aggressively safe” about opening while the COVID-19 pandemic remains a reality.
Joseph Weinberg, the CEO of Cordish – lunching on sushi at the huge central bar with a commanding view of the gaming floor – said he’s been most surprised “by how smooth it has been, with really spectacular teamwork,” getting the casino ready.
The virus pushed opening plans back about a month. But Weinberg said, “I was most pleasantly surprised. It let us see what people are made of.”
Pennsylvania and Philly just greenlit casino operations earlier this month following a shutdown due to another post-Thanksgiving virus surge.
Multiple media tours are planned ahead of opening because demand is so great, spokeswoman Carmen Gonzales, executive director of communications for Live! said.
Live! poker room impressive
And while I don’t personally play poker, I’ve been in plenty of card rooms. A phrase roughly equivalent to “holy crap” came out of my mouth when I stepped into Live!’s spacious 29-table card room during a media tour Thursday.
Like all other table games at Live!, every poker seat is cocooned in plexiglass. But the seating manages to feel intimate. The room also has its own bathroom facilities.
Goal is a destination location, complete with luxury hotel
Live! Philadelphia aims to be an all-encompassing gaming, resort, entertainment, and sports destination, a la Las Vegas or Atlantic City, during its heyday.
The property is adjacent to the Stadium District, two major highways, and public transit. It’s also near the airport and Philadelphia’s historic Old City and Center City districts.
With the addition of Live! Casino Philadelphia, the state has 13 casinos and one mini-casino. Live! is the only casino in Philly with a hotel. It has 208 rooms, including 30 suites, in its 12 stories. There’s an impressive view looking toward Center City. Philly-centric art lines the hotel hallways.
Currently, only four PA gaming locations – Mohegan Sun, Valley Forge Casino, Mount Airy, and Wind Creek – have hotels. Valley Forge is the only property in the greater Philly area.
Live! Casino Philadelphia is unique
Simply put, the size, scope, and amenities at Live! are in their own class.
Don’t take just my word: Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, was along for the tour. Harbach, who has been to every gambling property in PA, said there’s nothing quite like Live! elsewhere in the state.
The PGCB is currently on-site, checking systems pre-soft-opening.
Soft-opening set for Live!
Live! is hosting two invitation-only charity nights on January 16-17. Proceeds go to area non-profit organizations.
Officially, the $700 million project opens on January 19, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. but you need an invite for that day.
Meanwhile, Live! Rewards Club members can make reservations for preview days scheduled for January 19-February 11 at LivePhillyRSVP.com. If you are not a Live! member, you can sign up at PhillyLiveRewards.com and get on the list.
The public opening is on Feb. 11
The general public is welcome on Feb. 11, beginning at 8:00 p.m.
A Live! spokesperson said the long lag time was to assure that the facility has every health protocol fine-tuned before the public crowds in.
Live! Casino Philadelphia will also open its retail sportsbook in partnership with retail operator FanDuel.
Only a few amenities will not be open at first, including The Prime Rib, a steakhouse with a commanding bar, and 10th Street Market, which features local food vendors. But they should be added soon.
Most glamorous casino in PA?
Norton began his tour calling Live! “the most glamorous” casino in the state.
I think he’s right.
My one quibble is the remaking of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE statue to L!VE, but without any reference to the original.
The casino’s whimsical statue sits in the entry area near the porte-cochère. A commissioned reproduction of the original sculpture draws millions. The location is known as Love Park, near City Hall.
As a Philly native, some small reference to the Center City location of the source piece and an acknowledgment of Indiana as the originator of the 1970s Pop Art work seems the only way to appropriate his work.
Live! preview series
PlayPennsylvania recently published a three-part lead-up series highlighting all you can expect from the newest Philadelphia casino. Catch up here:
Following are additional photos provided by Live! Casino and Hotel.
Lead image courtesy of Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia