The first sportsbook located just steps from the homes of four major league franchises in North America opened Thursday. The Turf Club, an OTB venue in South Philadelphia, now offers legal sports betting action to players.
Turf Club becomes the second Greenwood Racing venue open for sports betting in Pennsylvania. Parx Casino in Bensalem, on the site of Philadelphia Park, began operations last week.
What bettors will find at the Turf Club
The venue in South Philadelphia offers all the same betting options available as the sister property on the other side of I-95. Kambi kiosks dot the expansive seating floor, along with betting windows facing the bar.
Greenwood CEO Tony Ricci was on hand for the grand opening. Aside from new TVs and fresh paint, it didn’t take much to add sports betting to the Turf Club’s offerings.
“This place is a natural sports book anyway,” he said. “It was taking bets on a sport — one sport. Now it can take bets on all sports.”
Instead of partitioning off a section of casino floor or renovating an area, Turf Club transitioned easily and seamlessly. Players can bet the horses and hoops but in a bigger space than options like the Borgata. The venue includes food and drink service on site.
While Parx and Turf Club launched a month after local rival SugarHouse Casino, they got more out of their deal with Kambi, like in-game betting at the kiosks. Prices at the Greenwood books are a bit higher, as SugarHouse maintained their shorter vig on NFL games offered on their NJ online/mobile book.
Unlike other openings, players weren’t exactly lining up to make bets. The midweek open didn’t draw a big crowd. George Wagner, of Warrington, made the first bet, a three-team parlay involving college and pro basketball.
He has bet in Pennsylvania, regulated and not (it’s South Philly, don’t act surprised). He mentioned the convenience of betting on-site attracted him, along with quicker payouts versus mobile sites like FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey. He did admit that unregulated books can try to retain customers with better prices.
A Turf Club revival?
Ricci is looking to sports betting as lifeline horse racing thought casino games would provide racetracks but turned out to be another noose. The competition for gambling dollars has seen handle at the venue drop from $100 million at the peak to $20 million now. Turf Club has closed four of its six locations in the Delaware Valley.
This is a major opportunity to test the notion that sportsbook can save the downtrodden thoroughbred industry in the Keystone State. FanDuel Sportsbook’s crown jewel in New Jersey is at the Meadowlands is the state’s biggest retail book. In the shadow of Metlife Stadium and NYC, that sportsbook has performed very well.
Turf Club is a short walk from the three big sports venue on Pattison Avenue in South Philly and mass transit. It’s a short drive off I-95, easier to get to than Parx and closer to the suburbs than SugarHouse. There are exponentially more games in that area than the Meadowlands. Fans may find a better (and more affordable) experience than at Xfinity Live, the bar/concert venue where the Spectrum once stood.
Ricci is embracing the live experience for players. The volume of the TVs and channels broadcasted rival any major book in AC or Vegas. He hopes to launch on-site mobile betting later in the year. This could keep people in the building for hours, even on slower nights when the home teams are off.
Turf Club’s other location, in Valley Forge, near 76 and the PA Turnpike, is next. Ricci hopes to launch those operations in time for March Madness. That would certainly make it a destination for the Villanova fanbase on the Main Line. If Greenwood finds success with these locations, they could reopen the shuttered clubs around the area.