Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pocono Downs Expansion Set To Open July 17th

Feather News

The $208 million Phase II expansion at the Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania is scheduled to hold a grand-opening ceremony on July 17, according to a Tuesday press release. The new expansion space will include 2,500 machines while dining, drinking and retail outlets will also be included in the July opening. Pennsylvania regulators will ultimately approve the facility's opening date once successful test runs are performed.

Currently, 1,203 slot machines are operating in the Pocono Downs' Phase I slot parlor, which opened in November 2006. Some of these existing slot machines may be transferred to the Pocono Downs' Phase II (expansion) gaming floor that is to open in July, according to earlier plans. It is hoped that with additional slot machines, the Tribe's Pocono Downs can turn its "negative cash flow" situation around.

Just as the Wolf Den is at the center of the Mohegan Sun's Earth Casino in Connecticut, so will be a bar called "Sunburst Bar" and located in the center of the Pocono Downs gaming floor that is to open in July. Another bar, Shakers, "will shake things up" with live music and, also according to Tuesday's press release, will feature, "stunning bartenders who serve drinks and periodically get up on the
bar to dance."

The Tribe, through MTGA, entered into a purchase agreement for the Pocono Downs property in August 2004. Estimated costs have since run to $750 million including the purchase and construction improvements, Pennsylvania gaming license fee, its share of MTGA's "corporate" diversification expenses and the accumulated losses since it was first purchased.

The nearest competition to the Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor is Mount Airy Casino, which opened about a year after the Pocono Downs opened. Mount Airy is 20 miles away as the crow flies and 40 miles by car on roads that wind through the Pocono Mountains.

Although additional slot machines should certainly help Pocono Downs, increased competition is also on the horizon. Last October, the Mount Airy Resort's slot parlor opened 20 miles away, as the crow flies, but now two other smaller slot parlors in the Poconos are currently being considered for gaming licenses by the state's gaming board while a massive slot parlor about 70 miles away, called Sands Bethworks and located in Bethlehem,Pa., is sheduled to open in June 2009.

Although up to two additional slot parlors with 500 slot machines as their maximum limit under the law could open soon in the Poconos, Sands Bethworks is slated to cost $800 million and include a 300-room hotel and 3,000 slot machines, among other amenities that include a 3,800-person capacity concert/event center, a retail mall that will house 200,000 square feet of retail shopping and 8 restaurants. The number of slot machines would be increased to 5,000 machines after its first six months, according to Las Vegas Sands' CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Although Adelson is the chief executive, he is also known for paying for his meals eaten at the casinos owned by Las Vegas Sands.

Mount Airy is a slot parlor with about 2,500 machines and has a 188-room hotel. Mount Airy cost $412 million to build and is one of five stand-alone slot parlors that will open in Pennsylvania (The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and its partners will have another stand-alone casino in the much-coveted Philadelphia location).

Pictures of the two slot parlors in the Pocono Mountains follow this article on the Feather News.