The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday approved a plan by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Parx, to open the betting operation in a section of a new Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurant in East Whiteland Township. The restaurant is set to open next month in the Grove Shopping Center, on Liberty Boulevard near the interchange of Routes 202 and 29.
The Parx Race and Sportsbook at Malvern will be the first licensed gaming outlet in Chester County. Parx had operated the off-track betting outlet in Valley Forge, which was renamed the Oaks Race and Sportsbook when sports-betting was legalized. Parx shut it down in June 2020 amid coronavirus restrictions.
The newly licensed Malvern operation is similar to one that Parx is seeking to open at a Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philadelphia, which was rejected for a special exemption by the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment in June after residents objected. Parx, whose flagship casino and racetrack are in Bensalem, has appealed.
Parx officials said the partnership with Chickie’s & Pete’s is intended to revive the “outdated” off-track betting business model, which has declined with the fading popularity of horse-racing. At one point, Pennsylvania racetracks operated 23 OTB outlets across the state where bettors could remotely watch and wager. Only three remain, said Joe Wilson, the chief operating officer of Parx Racing.
Parx’s OTB outlet in Oaks was failing to attract patrons, even with the addition of sports-betting, Wilson said. It struggled to compete with a nearby full-service casino, the Valley Forge Casino Resort.
“It was a 26,000-square-foot facility with basically nobody in it and you just can’t operate that way,” Wilson told the Gaming Control Board at its meeting Wednesday in Harrisburg. “And all of the OTBs that have closed it was mainly for the same reason. It’s just outdated.”
The partnership with Chickie’s & Petes, the Philadelphia chain best known for its trademarked Crabfries, has been under discussion for five years, Wilson said, and represents the future model for horse-race wagering and sports betting.
The new sports-betting room at Chickie’s & Pete’s will be relatively small — 630 square feet, and include four automated kiosks for placing wagers, and four windows for gamblers who wish to place their bets with tellers. There will be no seating, and the only food service will be provided in the restaurant. The betting room will be entered only from inside the restaurant, and will operate between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays, and later on weekends.
The operation will employ 14 to 16 people. Only one security officer will be on duty at a time to make sure that underaged patrons do not enter, but Commissioner Sean Logan expressed concern that parents or guardians would leave children unattended at restaurant tables or in parked cars while they placed bets. Wilson said that Parx security officers at the Bensalem casino would monitor the parking lot.