January 14, 2021

Inside the new $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia

The long-anticipated $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia is putting the final touches on the 510,000-square-foot development in preparation for its grand opening on Feb. 11.

Members of the media got a sneak peek at the 900 Packer Ave. entertainment hub on a tour with Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming Group. The project is being developed by Stadium Casino RE LLC, an affiliate of Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos., which also built neighboring Xfinity Live!. It’s been roughly eight years since the company first answered Philadelphia’s request for proposals for the new venue, Norton noted. The project sits on the site of former Holiday Inn Stadium Hotel.

Guests walking into the main entrance of the South Philadelphia venue pass under a sprawling 150-foot LED outdoor ceiling that depicts rotating digital art displays, such as flowers or the Live! Casino logo. Then it’s time to choose your own adventure: turn left and ascend an escalator to 15,000 square feet of customizable meeting space able to accommodate 12 to 1,000 guests post-Covid; walk straight through to the gaming floor with 2,100 slot machines; or veer right to reach the lobby of the 208-room, 12-story luxury hotel. 

The hotel offers 30 suites, including a mid-level presidential suite and a top-tier penthouse. The building boasts a sleek, modern design throughout, with artwork in the hallways depicting iconic local scenes, like people rowing a boat on the Schuylkill River with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and city skyline rising in the background. Many rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows showing views including Center City high rises and the stadiums. 

Across the gaming floor there are 121 live-action table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat. There is a 29-table poker room with plexiglass dividers separating each seat, which also come equipped with individual charging stations.

Additionally, there are 74 stations of dealer-assisted electronic tables games (think blackjack and baccarat) that offer a live video feed of a casino staff member dealing a game while players are separated by plexiglass partitions. 

A centerpiece of the casino floor is a FanDuel-branded sportsbook and lounge, which is part of the venue’s food and beverage concept Sports and Social Philadelphia. The sportsbook is the third one in Pennsylvania to partner with FanDuel (which Norton calls the “powerhouse” of sports betting), coming in behind Live! Casino’s sister development in Pittsburgh and the state’s inaugural FanDuel sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino Resort. 

The casino also includes high limit tables and slots rooms. An additional lounge is being developed in the hotel lobby to assist people in signing up for Live!’s online casino offering. 

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia is following a 20-page “Play It Safe” plan to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic. Safety features include temperature checks of everyone entering the building, mask requirements and what Norton dubs a “tremendous” amount of plexiglass.

The property uses technology on slot machines to automatically shut down the machine next to a player when someone sits down, and has devised a ticketing system at table games to limit foot traffic. Additionally, the casino uses its surveillance system for contact tracing: for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19, staff will go back through footage to track that person's entire time in the Live! facility and identify potential contacts.  

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia offers roughly a dozen restaurant concepts, including outposts from local favorites like Lorenzo and Sons Pizza and Termini Bros. There are also two eateries from Emmy Award-winning celebrity chef Guy Fieri, as well as a new Philly location of Baltimore steakhouse The Prime Rib. 

The casino is the latest crux in Cordish Cos. development of the Stadium District, which attracts 8.5 million visitors annually. The project is anticipated to generate more than $2 billion in economic stimulus for Philly, along with $100 million in tax revenue for the city within five years. That includes $25 million headed to the Philadelphia School District. 

The casino has also committed to contributing upwards of $15 million in its first 10 years to “support improvements and enhancements to the local community,” per media materials. It also plans to engage in marketing partnerships with area sports teams, businesses and tourist attractions to promote visitorship to Philadelphia. 

Hiring is ongoing to fill 2,000 permanent positions at the venue.

The minimum wage at the development is set at $12 per hour, versus Pennsylvania’s $7.25 hourly rate. Throughout construction, the project estimates it created an additional 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, effectively doling out $145 million in new wages and salaries during that time period.

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia is being constructed by Gilbane Building Co. The architect is Philadelphia firmed BLT Architects. Interior designers are Klai Juba Architects of Las Vegas, Jeffrey Beers International of New York City and Hirsch Bedner Associates of Santa Monica, California. Baltimore's McLaren Engineering Group served as the civil, structural and geotechnical engineers. Broomall-based Giovanetti Shulman Associates is the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer.

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