SugarHouse Not That Sweet

We went to SugarHouse Casino on opening night. Here are our hastily put together thoughts.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 28, 2010

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Recession? What recession? Double-digit unemployment? Whatever. A whopping 43.6 million Americans—14.3 percent—living in poverty? Ugh. Why do you have to be such a motherlovin’ buzzkill?

Last Thursday, legalized gambling finally made its way to Philly despite neighborhood protests in Fishtown and an entire world history’s worth of mounted evidence that casinos are never really a good idea for a community, and boy howdy did we greet it with open arms, The Greatest Depression be damned. Traffic was backed up all the way down Delaware Avenue by cars inching along in a single file line to get into SugarHouse. Not a spot could be found to park in on the usually pretty desolate Frankford Avenue. SugarHouse was 10-pound sausage in a five-pound casing kind of packed.

But you know that already, because chances are you were there along with what seemed like the rest of the city. Total mob scene. So packed, in fact, that by the time the entire editorial staff of PW got to there for our class trip, all the seats in front of each of the 1600 slot machines, 40 table games and two bars had already been taken by people eager to chance it with unfavorable house odds. By the looks of things, SugarHouse paid for itself on opening night.

Now, it would be unfair to review SugarHouse based on this one night. But then again, it’s a casino, and not being fair is pretty much how they stay in business. So here’s a rundown of some of what to expect at the shit show once you inevitably give in to your curiosity about it and head on down.

The Crowd

Did we mention it was packed? Every nook and cranny of the cavernous gaming floor was filled with people cramming twenties into Sex and the City slot machines or letting it ride on the roulette wheel. One completely tanked middle-aged black guy we saw was cozied up to the former, carefully balancing a hoagie on his lap while smoking a cigarette. The game allows you to chose which character you’d like to be represented as. After giving it some serious thought, he went with Charlotte and then ashed on the floor. The casino has designated smoking areas, but no one seems to pay much mind to where they are. They smoke everywhere, and as such there were cigarette butts ground into the floor and snubbed out on a fair number of the machines in nonsmoking areas. This is why we can’t have nice things, Philly. That is, of course, provided you think a gaudy casino is a nice thing.

The Service

“I don’t drink, and don’t know what any of this stuff is.” That’s a quote from our waitress, and she’s not kidding. A sample conversation with her went something like this: “I’d like a Dead Guy, please.” “What’s in that?” “I’ll have a Blue Moon.” “What’s in that?’ Other conversations she just had with herself: “We’re out of something … let me see that menu ... Yes, the Dogfish Head? We’re out of that one, I think. I’ll have to check. Who would order something called a Fishdog Head? Sounds gross.” Leaves for 15 minutes, comes back. “Yeah. Out of it.” (They were out of Dead Guy and Blue Moon, too.)

“I don’t drink” seemed to be our waitress’ mantra, repeated often and loudly as both an excuse for her performance and a warning about whatever expectations we might have had. It got us to wondering if the rest of the SugarHouse employees went through as little training or a screening as our waitress seemed to. I can imagine a roulette dealer spinning the wheel, the ball coming to rest on 30 Red, on which a lucky someone has placed $500 worth of chips. “Fuck yes!” he yells, hopping up and down excitedly. “I won!” The roulette dealer stares at him blankly. “You did? I’m not a gambler. I don’t know how this works.”

The Games

You’ve got a choice between slots, Pai Gow poker, mini baccarat, virtual poker, roulette and craps. You will lose at them all. We took our chance with slots, putting $20 in a dollar-a-spin slot machine. It lasted us roughly three minutes. We walked away with 15 cents.

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