Sugarhouse Casino Expansion Comes Into Fruition

Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino is in the midst of a long-awaited renovation which will add more than double the existing amount of square feet to the casino.

Wendy Hamilton, general manager for the property, has the stressful job of managing the day-to-day operations of the casino, while overseeing the 144,000 ft.² expansion. Earlier this week, caught up with Hamilton, who opened up about the challenges of running the business as well as the threat posed by the state’s decision to award the Parx/Cordish venture a license to build a second casino in Philadelphia.

Hamilton revealed that SugarHouse was built much smaller than expected due to the recession of the early 2,000’s. Even so, the casino has been successful due to its good location and strong workforce.

“We picked a great team of 1,100 people to run the place, and our customers have welcomed us with open arms,” she said. “I get more positive guest letters here than I ever got in 20 years [in the industry]. Some are so genuine and heartfelt, they literally bring a tear to your eye.”

Hamilton believes that the biggest issue the casino has faced has been “keeping it fresh” for patrons and employees. The ongoing expansion should breathe new life into the property and remedy everyday problems like utility closets being far away from where they should be.

Managing the casino is a high stress job and takes away time Hamilton can spend with her son. “I guess the biggest challenge is that it’s difficult for someone in my position to shut it down,” she said. “You’re always thinking about the job. You don’t get to clock out of a shift and then be done with it until the next day. She added that even her son sometimes tells her to “put the phone down!”

Does Philly really need more casinos?

In November, state gaming regulators awarded a casino license to a joint venture between Parx Casino and Cordish Cos., who plan to open a new casino in the Stadium District. The move has angered the owners of existing casinos who believe that the market is already saturated, and adding more casinos will result in cannibalization.

“There are no facts that support the idea that the city needs a second casino,” said Hamilton. “We came into this knowing a second casino was planned, but that was 10 years ago. The world has changed. Who would have thought…casinos in Atlantic City would close their doors?”