This Pennsylvania racino, conveniently situated just at a duration of 20 minutes north of Center City Philadelphia, combines a thoroughbred horse racing track with the largest casino gaming complex in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, it is one of the six licensed racinos. With more than two poker rooms, 3,500 slot machines, 130+ table games, an innovative form of gambling named as hybrid games (roulette, live dealer blackjack, and baccarat played at a slot terminal), and live and simulcast racing, Parx is a Pennsylvania gambler’s paradise.
It is two years after the 2004 legalization of casino slots gambling in Pennsylvania when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) awarded Philadelphia Park a conditional slots license, after which the construction of new casino began. The official opening of the casino took place on December 21, 2006, with a permanent license. A new name of the casino and racetrack was unveiled on July 4, 2009, as Parx.
Table games did not become legal in Pennsylvania until the year 2010. Parx Casino started adding table games in the month of July of that year. It was in December 2010 that the facility added a second building called Parx East to make room for additional slots and table games.
Parx Casino and Racing is open every single day of the year, 24/7. The live racing season runs from the month of February through December, and day of Saturday through Tuesday is the designated racing days. However, wagering on races from other tracks is available even when Parx Racetrack is murky.
In case, if you work up an appetite for all the action at this large gambling complex, no worries. You have ample of options that range from a quick snack on the go to leisurely fine dining.
Parxgrill, open nightly, is this facility’s award-winning upscale signature restaurant. It features both classic cuisine and seasonal specialties. For more casual fare, you can choose from:
Earl of Sandwich
Sang Kee Noodle House (in Parx East)
Paddock Grill for fast food (in Parx East)
Bambu Noodle House
Foodies, a 24/7 eatery
Entertainment and nightlife
As for entertainment, Parx doesn’t begin to compare with Las Vegas, but if you would be content with a place to relax and unwind over a couple of drinks, there are options in large numbers. Taking an example, the Xlounge not only serves wine, craft beer, and cocktails but also has a high-end food menu. And if you go during Happy Hour, Wednesday-Sunday, 4-6 p.m., small plates, and drinks start at just an amount of $4.
As an alternative, you can enjoy Happy Hour with drink and appetizer specialties from 5 to 7 p.m. every day of the week at a bar in the main casino called 360, while either Chickie’s& Pete’s or Jax would be the perfect gathering place for sports fans. At Jax, gamblers can have a drink, watch the game on TV, and play video poker all simultaneously.
Even the upscale and very expensive Parxgrill has a Happy Hour. Every day but Saturday, between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., select appetizers and drinks are available at a discount of 50 percent.
On the nights of Friday and Saturday, the entertainment picks up. Every Friday is not just TGIF but Get Lucky Friday for those enjoying the live bands and drink specials at 360 from 5-to7 p.m. After dark, on Friday and Saturday night, 360 turns into a dance club featuring celebrity DJs, cabarets, tribute and cover bands and other forms of entertainment.
Throughout the week, there is also a lot going on entertainment-wise at 360, together with Comedy Night every Wednesday and Latin Night on every Thursday, when guests can get a dance lesson free of cost. Any Sunday between the timings of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., if you’re a rock star or showbiz wannabe, 360 wants to hear from you. The club is presenting you the “opportunity to let your inner rock star loose” on the 360 stage and “be a star at Parx!”
Undoubtedly, Parx is a fun place to be anytime. In case, you feel like gambling or partying until the wee hours of the morning, you surely can at Parx. It can be easily accessed from I-95, U.S. 1 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike and offers free parking for more than 5,000 number of cars. In addition, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Parx can also be reached by Septa bus. However, if you reach the point where you have had enough play for one day, but are too tired to drive home or it is too late to take the bus, you need a contingency plan. If you need a place to park yourself for the night and expect to find the parking place at Parx, you are out of luck.
While one way for a casino to get around not being allowed to have a hotel right on the premises is to comprise of one next door. Parx does not offer the same. The closest lodging is a half-mile away. However, being a member of Xclub (the casino’s player club) entitles you to a discounted rate at any of the below-mentioned hotels:
RADISSON HOTEL NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA
$99 per night plus tax
Use group code PAR
COURTYARD MARRIOTT – BENSALEM
$109 per night plus tax
Use group code PXCH
EXTENDED STAY AMERICA
$69 per night plus tax
includes free Wi-Fi
Use group code EAPAR
BEST WESTERN PLUS
$85 per night plus tax
includes free breakfast and Wi-Fi
Use group code ParxPoker
Who can play in the casino?
The minimum age to gamble at Parx Casino and Racetrack is 21 years. It is same as at all of the licensed Pennsylvania casinos. There is strict enforcement of the age requirement, set by the PGCB.
Security and fairness
Parx Casino and Racing, along with all of the other operating legal casinos in Pennsylvania at present, is licensed and regulated by the PGCB. This agency continues to monitor all aspects of each facility’s operation for the purpose of ensuring and maintaining the highest standards of security and fairness.
Another reason for Parx’s safety and security is its own long and impressive history in the gambling business. The racetrack has not only been operating successfully for more than four decades but it also features prestigious races like the Pennsylvania Derby. Clearly, the horses’ owners and trainers are not about to put at risk their well-earned professional reputation by being involved in any way with an operation whose integrity is the least bit suspect.
Also, out of all the casinos in Pennsylvania, Parx was the only one to receive Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly Award for the year 2016. While this casino, along with all of the other Pennsylvania casinos, has had its share of complaints from slots players about the machines being tight, the figures for the month of July 2016 show that the returns at Parx are above the norm for this state. Out of the 12 currently operating Pennsylvania casinos, a comparison of the slots payouts for the month of July 2016 showed that Parx was the best of the group with a payback percentage of 91.1 percent.
Since Parx Casino began operating in the year 2006, the gaming area has been expanded to incorporate additional floor space in an adjacent building, which is called Parx East. Overall, the casino comprises of more than 3,500 slot machines and more than 130 live table games surrounding a gaming area of more than 260,000 square feet. There are also two poker rooms. A premier poker room in the main casino contains 80 tables and another poker room contains 45 tables in the Parx East. The Park East building also overlooks the racetrack, where a full program of live thoroughbred racing is offered on scheduled days all through the racing season.
Both the slot machine areas and table game areas of the casino comprise of separate sections, which are designated as smoking or non-smoking. However, the complaint has been received from many players that the smoke travels in the so-called non-smoking sections of the casino. As a result, they also smell the smoke. This is a repeated complaint of players at all the casinos in Pennsylvania.
Parx Casino is a place with plenty of slots. But for any hardcore slots lover, there can never be a casino with too many of these machines. At Parx, you can choose from a tremendous variety of popular games. The casino offers everything, right from simple reel machines to the latest video slots, novelty, and jackpot slots on the left. Stakes range from a penny to an amount of $100 per spin.
Following are some of the newer featured slots at Parx Casino that are receiving a lot of play are:
Superman the Movie
The Walking Dead
Michael Jackson King of Pop
High-end slot players may feel like checking out Xclusive. It is a separate gaming area offering the most popular slots, with denominations, which starts at $1 to $100. Special amenities include a private cashier, a casino host available 24/7 and premium beverage service.
Slot returns higher than other PA casinos
We have earlier stated in this review that slot players at all the Pennsylvania casinos, including Parx, feel that the machines are tighter than they actually should be. However, as per the data on actual slot payout percentages for the different casinos for the month of July 2016, the payout at Parx Casino was higher than anywhere else. It is not clear, whether this was just an isolated instance or if the payouts at Parx are constantly higher.
What so ever be the case, it is true that it may be tougher for slot players to win in Pennsylvania than in many other locations. The reason being the average return to the player (RTP) is indeed lower. PGCB has stipulated the minimum percentage that slot machines can return in Pennsylvania as only 85 percent.
Because of the popular demand, there are a mounting number of penny slot machines. The low coin size appeals to many gamblers, despite the fact that it is easy to forget that with the high multiple-coin options, play on these machines can often wind up being expensive in any case. Unfortunately, regardless of how many coins the penny player feeds into the machine at a point of time, the payback percentage for penny machines is less than it is for higher denomination machines.
Consequently, if you are going to play slots at Parx Casino, do not opt for playing the penny machines. On the other hand, don’t exceed the budget you have set aside for playing and, whether you win or lose, keep your playing sessions to a reasonable length. Also, don’t chase your losses. When you’re winning, keep in mind that your luck could change at any point in time.
Video poker and other electronic games
At Parx Casino, slot machines play a very different role from just being an electronic game. A variety of video poker and more than 100 terminals offering electronic blackjack, three card poker, and single zero roulette are also there. Hybrid games are table games and even possess a live dealer, are another popular pick.
The expansion of Parx Casino to a second building gave the casino the extra room it needed not only for the purpose of addition of more slots but also the introduction of a greater variety of table games. The following table games are currently offered by Parx Casino:
Big Six Wheel
Four card poker
Let It Ride
Midi and mini baccarat
Three card poker
It is essential to make acquainted yourself with the format and rules of the game you decide to play. In addition, try to avoid the games with the highest house and instead go for the games like baccarat, blackjack and craps, which give you a better chance to win. Big Six wheel is the one game that has a very high house edge, and therefore you should not make a habit of playing it.
Table games limits
Just like the slots, table game players can choose from a wide range of betting limits. However, on weekends and holidays, low stakes players will most likely find their options extremely restricted. Typically, blackjack players have a complaint about not being able to find any tables with less than an amount of $25 minimum, but at Parx, even for roulette, the minimum bet on a weekend is reported to be of amount $15.
Talking of roulette, if you play this game, you should stick to European roulette and stay away from the higher house edge American roulette. The difference is that European roulette has just a single zero on the wheel; on the other hand, American roulette has both single and double zero. The extra zero moves up the house edge from 2.70 percent to 5.26 percent.
Big bettors might prefer playing in the high limit room. This special enclave offers a private bar and restroom, high stakes tables, premium beverage service, one-on-one customer service and menu offerings from the casino’s signature steakhouse, Parxgrill.
Blackjack is the casino’s most popular table game. It has its reputation both as a game with a low house edge and one where both luck and skill determine the outcome.
It comes in lots of different variations, and these differences in the rules can also affect the likelihood of winning. But, if your question is whether any Pennsylvania casinos offer a better blackjack game than the others, the answer is that where you play doesn’t matter. All the Pennsylvania casinos have the same rules, preset by the PGCB and which provide Pennsylvania one of the best blackjack games in the country. There is still a small house edge, but by use of basic strategy, it is just about .40 percent. Below are the PA rules:
Blackjack pays 3:2
Splits up to three hands (except aces)
Dealer stands on soft 17
Doubling down after splits
Doubling down permitted on any two cards
Late surrender (In case the dealer does not have a blackjack, players who don’t like their hand has the option of not to play it and give up half their bet.)
Blackjack side bets
Where the individual Pennsylvania casinos may differ is in the optional side bets, which can also be made by the blackjack players. These extra bets add to the playing cost and have a higher house edge than the standard bets (following basic strategy). Hence, other than making them very rarely for small stakes just for fun, they are not recommended.
Match the Dealer, a side bet is offered by Parx Casino. This is a bet where as a minimum one of the player’s first two cards numerically matches the dealer’s upcard. The winning payouts for six-deck games are mentioned below:
one suited match: 11 to 1
two suited matches: 22 to 1
one unsuited match: 4 to 1
two unsuited matches: 8 to 1
one unsuited and one suited match: 15 to 1
Below are the winning payouts for eight-deck games are:
one suited match: 14 to 1
two suited matches: 28 to 1
one unsuited match: 3 to 1
two unsuited matches: 6 to 1
one unsuited and one suited match: 17 to 1
These games are exclusive to Parx Casino. They combine the excitement of live dealer table game play with the ease of slot play. In this game, players sit at individual slot terminals, and the game is transmitted from the dealer’s table by means of live streaming. Every betting happens on a touch screen. The table minimums start at an amount of $5.
Shaq Blackjack features standard blackjack bets, stadium style seating, and side bets that are themed around NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal. Real cards are used by the game, which appears on the screen. But instead of being seated at a table with other players, it’s just you vs. the dealer. Hence, you never have to worry yourself with how others are playing their hands. Fusion baccarat and fusion roulette let players bet on up to four live games simultaneously.
The Parx Poker Room is considered as the top place to play poker in Pennsylvania. Conversely, the drawback for casual recreational players is that this room attracts more than its share of sharks and pros. Unbelievable amount of money gets wallowed in the Parx Poker Room. So, for a small player just starting out, there are chances of intimidation. Hence, the room could prove risky in the context of player’s bankroll.
The most popular cash game is $1-$2 no-limit. One cannot find smaller games and some of the games are much bigger. The high limit action or weekly or special tournaments drive many poker players to visit Parx. The room has amenities including free Wi-Fi, full menu and bar service
Big stax and other tournaments
To play in some of the special multi-day tournaments like the Big Stax events, running periodically throughout the year, you’ll require both deep pockets and a lot of time on your hands.
The regular Tuesday night is traditional in structure and less expensive. Both have 20-minute blinds and a buy-in and fees of entry of $100 + $20. All winners in the Survivor tournament receive the same prize of an amount of $1,000.
The other options for tournament players comprise of bounty, re-entry and turbo tournaments, with buy-ins and entry fees, which ranges from $65 + $15 to $200 + $30.
Special promotions for poker players include drawings for prizes and high hand promotions.
Xclub is the loyalty rewards program of Parx Casino and Racing. In case you’re not already a member, you can sign up online. Thereafter, visit the Xclub booth in the casino in order to pick up your player’s card. Your offer of a new member, an amount of $10 in free slot play will be on your card, ready to use.
Every Xclub cardholder earns points (credits) for their play. The credits can be used at food and beverage outlet. Players earn one credit for every $60 wagered on video poker or $20 wagered on slots. The table game play also earns credits; however, the rates are different. The expiry of Comp dollars is 90 days from the time they are earned.
Moreover, on the basis of the play, you may qualify for sweepstakes entries, free slot plays and match play offers and other special perks like Xtra Play.
A number of credits earned in a period of six-month determine your card status for the subsequent six months. Xtra Play and Free slot play don’t count toward your level of status. There are three levels as given:
Players: 999 credits or less
Elite: 7,500+ credits
Premium: 1,000+ credits
All players, despite their level, are entitled to all of the following given:
Access to current promotions
Community partner offers (discounts on purchases or services)
Complimentary casino floor beverage service
Entries into sweepstakes
Free slot play and food and beverage offers
Premium players receive additional benefits, which include:
Complimentary casino floor top shelf beverage service
Free valet service
No cover charge at 360
Elite players receive all of the enhanced benefits of Premium card membership plus:
Private gated parking
Priority restaurant reservations
Priority lines for the Xclub, cashier, and valet
Xtra Play is a special perk on the basis of slot play only. Players at any of the status level are eligible, but to qualify, they have to earn at least ten points in a single gaming day. Any earned Xtra Play becomes available starting at 9 a.m. the following day and is valid for a period of 45 days.
Use your Xclub Card outside of Parx
The Xclub card is honored at many Parx Community Partners. You have to present your Xclub card to a participating retailer in order to receive a discount or special offer. Taking an example, if you want to stay overnight at one of the participating hotels that are mentioned in the first section of this review, use the designated code at the time of making your reservation. Present your Xclub card, when checking in to avail special discounted rate.
If Parx Casino and Racing are the types of places where you would like to try your luck, it is not possible that you’re not impressed by the dazzling visual displays. This standout feature of gambling helps in convincing that if you are a poker player, casino player, and/or racing fan, and partying the night away is your idea of enjoyment, there is no other place you would somewhat be.
Things to improve
In contrast, Parx is not for everyone. Keep in mind that Parx is not acknowledged for being mainly generous with comps for lower-end players. Where you play table games for less than an amount of $25 a hand, your table’s choice should be very limited. You can get more value for money elsewhere. Similarly, in case you are a casual recreational poker player, you will most likely feel more comfortable. Also, your money will last longer in another room which is more beginner friendly.
The visitor feedback sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have mixed comments about Parx. The following are the things where there is scope for improvement:
Faster beverage service
Slots that are less tight
Smell of smoke in non-smoking areas
Table games with lower minimums, and better comps
Additionally, there has been a slew of complaints recently in the context of gift giveaway promotions. In these promotions, the casino runs out of the promised gift early. The players who can’t get the gift receive free slot play in its place but they feel short-changed.
One more point of consideration is that if you live a long distance away, then there is no hotel on the premises. You have to be prepared with your own arrangements beforehand. In addition, there is no doubt that plenty of free parking is available, but you may have to walk a long distance to reach the casino.
Upside of Parx
Many things are there that makes Parx great. They are:
Excellent blackjack rules
Tremendous variety of games, including unique innovative games
Above-average restaurants, bars, and evening entertainment
Slot payouts that are better than other Pennsylvania casinos
Parx is definitely a fun place to play. It is irrelevant whether you come just for a day or evening or make your visit a longer one, a good time awaits you and there is no scope of you getting bored. If your interest area is action and excitement, Parx is definitely the place to visit.