SugarHouse Casino doubles down on expansion

One year after Philadelphia’s first foray into legalized gaming with the opening of SugarHouse Casino, questions still remain about the effect the casino has had on the community.

SugarHouse, which opened its doors on Delaware Avenue on the Fishtown-Northern Liberties border last September, ranks ninth-busiest among the state’s 10 casinos based on average revenue per slot machine. Yet, the casino is set to expand on its current 1,600 slots and 53 table games.

“There’s a huge demand on table games, and our slot business is great and growing,” said spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker.

While critics claim that most of the casino’s patrons come from the community, there has not been a noticeable increase in problem gambling reports, according to a statewide help center.

“We do see an increase in minorities since SugarHouse opened because SugarHouse gets a lot of minority, inner-city folks plus a lot of seniors, and so does Parx in Bensalem,” said Jim Pappas, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling. As officials try to provide outreach to combat gaming’s addictive nature, the city has received $2.1 million for education about problem gambling.

“It’s important to include those services among our other addiction services, and that’s regardless of whether or not there’s a casino in the city,” said Gary Brown of the city Department of Behavioral Health.

More slots, tables, food if casino expands

SugarHouse is expected to go before the city’s Planning Commission today with an informational presentation on its expansion, but it has not announced any details.

“We’re sort of in that process right now where we’re figuring out what components we want to add. We’re having those conversations now,” Whitaker said. “It would include some additional slot machines, additional tables, additional food and beverage.”

Whitaker said the casino would need additional permits for new construction and that a hotel is not included in the second phase.

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