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Valley Forge Resort Casino is in Fighting Trim

Valley Forge Resort Casino may be small by U.S. standards but, as Vice President Ron Bailey attests, it packs a wallop. By David McKee

Although outgunned by larger casinos in the crowded Philadelphia market, Valley Forge Resort Casino has always punched above its weight. The Boyd Gaming property, acquired in 2018, is part of a small subclass of Pennsylvania casinos. So-called “Class III” or resort-oriented properties are strictly limited in terms of slot machines and table games.
Yet, despite this, Valley Forge Casino – which lies immediately across the street from the national historic park of the same name – has always been competitive with the other casinos in the area. It recently surpassed larger Harrah’s Philadelphia in its monthly gross.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic ended, Valley Forge’s destiny has been in the hands of General Manager Ron Bailey, a Boyd vice president. A longtime veteran of the hospitality industry, Bailey has is no stranger to the Boyd corporate ladder, having previously steered Sam’s Town Shreveport.
In his spare time he practices jiujitsu, as well as cooking and trail riding. We spoke to him from his office at Valley Forge Resort Casino, the casino that comes closest to being able to honestly say “George Washington slept here.” Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Congratulations, Valley Forge has been outperforming of late. What’s the secret?
For 2023, i-gaming played a large role in a lot of the success. FanDuel ran our online casino but Boyd Gaming bought Pala Interactive. So in May, Stardust Casino, which is our brand in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, moved onto the Pala – now Boyd – Interactive platform. That was very seamless and continues to grow. Same-store business as well. Overall for the property we had success for a lot of 2023.
In a market with five casinos, how do you differentiate yourselves?
We’re a Class III casino, so we’re significantly smaller than most in the Philadelphia region. We’re a boutique hotel-casino resort. So one of the things that we really focus on is relationships. Our senior leadership is always presents. Our customers always know who we are. We interact with them on a regular basis. We’re very in touch with our customer base and are able to pivot or make changes based on what’s happening on our area.
What’s your player demographic?
A large portion of our revenue comes from within 20 miles of the property. So we’re very much a local casino. Our demographic could be similar to the Philadelphia market. However, from a sports betting standpoint we probably skew a little bit younger but from a gaming perspective, whether it’s tables or slots, we have a very diverse customer base, from mid-20s all the way up to the eighties or nineties.
Given that Valley Forge is one of the few resort-casinos in Pennsylvania, what constraints does that put on your gambling offerings and other amenities?
The constraints are that we have 850 slot machines and 50 table games, and we’re not growing that. However, it allows us to change our mix pretty frequently. I’ve been at the property for almost three years and we’ve changed over a quarter of our slot floor, whether it’s new themes to existing boxes or purchased capital or leased machines. From a resort standpoint, having a pool, having a hotel, having 100,000 square feet of meeting space – we certainly have a broader customer base than other places may have. We have a lot of unrated play at the property. The type of group business that we bring in, certainly we get a lot of unrated play from those people.
As for rated play, how important is your loyalty program?
Boyd Rewards is kind of critical to our success. Having Big Brother in Las Vegas and having so many opportunities for our customers to use the power of that brand, it’s critical to our success. A lot of our frequent customers enjoy not only enjoy playing with us but also the ability to go to other properties, whether it’s a sporting event or a concert or even a golf tournament at other properties and utilizing that. We found over the past several years that cross-property play is a critical component to customer satisfaction.
With five casinos contending for the same customer pool, how intense do the promotional wars become?
I don’t think that we really get into promotional wars as far as what our strategy is. Our strategy is very targeted and very focused. Our goal is not to cow-herd a bunch of customers into the building. We want to put the right customer in the building at the right time, making sure that we’re taking care of our very best customers. The days of doing a car promotion or giving away a car on the casino floor is not necessarily our strategy but we may give an offer like that to our very best customers or having promotions that are are rewarding the frequent players.
How much convention business does Valley Forge do?
It’s a big, big part of our business model. Not all of the Boyd properties that have as much convention space. We do have several properties in the brand that do. We have a very, very aggressive sales team that continues to book. Not only has the business grown over the past several years but the profitability of the business has grown as well. We have a very good sales team. I have an excellent director of sales and they continue to push to grow the business, not just for ’24 but for ’25, ’26 and out.
Parx Casino, your biggest competitor, has gone smoke-free. Valley Forge has not. Why not?
It’s something that we continue to look at. As we moved out of the pandemic, we did change our floor, which was 50 percent smoking. We cut that back when we reopened, so we’re about 40 percent smoking right now. It’s something we’re going to reevaluate. Right now, that’s where we’re comfortable but it’s something that we take feedback from our customers. We work on just trying to have a comfortable experience for everyone. When you walk on the casino floor you don’t have to be in the smoking area. It’s actually in the back of the casino. Our tables, other than our high-limit pit, are all non-smoking. When you walk into the casino, whether you go the left, to the right that’s all nonsmoking, and when you hit the table games those are all non-smoking as well.
Do you oppose the move in the Legislature to close the smoking loophole for casinos?
We kind of stay, at least me in my role, stay kind of out of that. We have many customers that like the smoking and we certainly have customers that are on the other side of that. If legislation changes, we’ll certainly adapt to that.
 For those seeking a resort experience, what does Valley Forge offer?
We have a resort-style pool. We do events. We’ll have some concerts, live music. We also have a steakhouse, our food hall and, obviously, we also have rooms and suites throughout the property.
What is your dining repertory?

We have a food court that has three outlets in it. We  also have a breakfast venue that’s open on weekends. We also have Revolution Chop House, which is our steakhouse.

Has your proximity to the national park helped business?

Absolutely. Having Valley Forge National Park, now having TopGolf right next door to us, the King of Prussia Mall and also Town Center, it allows us to keep this area very sticky. We certainly love to keep people at the property but also having partnerships with different areas allows us to make sure that people are enjoying the whole area. Back to the convention side: When we’re trying to sell Valley Forge Casino Resort, we’re also selling the area and we’re letting folks know that your customers that you’re bringing have plenty to do while they’re here. Also, for the gaming customer, we actually have as partnership with TopGolf where customers can use their points and give them gift cards to go over and play at TopGolf.
Do you see much custom from shoppers?
We do. That’s a big advantage. Across America there’s a lot of malls that are kind of closing but that place keeps crushing. Our customers love it. The selection of stores there – there’s a lot of stores there, a lot of highend restaurants – and so we find that our customer base enjoys that King of Prussia Mall space plus Town Center, which is less than a mile.
Does your customer base come for the gamblingand then enjoys the amenities or it is the other way around?
It’s primarily customers that are coming to game. Having other ways to entertain themselves is secondary, outside of the convention business. In the convention business, they’re coming to conduct whatever business that they have but they want to be able to – especially if it’s a group that’s checking in Sunday and checking out Thursday – they want to have something to do outside of that. Do they gamble? Absolutely. But do they go to TopGolf and hit some balls? Yes. Also the mall and Valley Forge National Park. Being next to them, from people just going to take pictures and go on walks, there’s a lot of opportunity for that area as well, which we promote.
How big of a draw is your FanDuel sports book?
It’s the juggernaut. It is really is the king and we love the partnership with FanDuel. The draw that that they have, especially during major sporting events – football really crushes – it really does well. It’s the Little Engine That Could: We actually have a small sports book but it’s very busy, very steady and we enjoy the business it provides us.
Are you able to get a disproportionate share of online sports betting thanks to FanDuel?
Absolutely. Again, they are dominant in the market on online sports betting as well. It helps us because cashing out, if you want cash directly, you have to come to Valley Forge to cash out from your online bets.
Are there any changes or upgrades in the offing?
We are going through a room remodel, starting this summer. We’re looking to redo our food court. We’re going to turn that into a food hall and we’re just finishing the design phase of that. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to make a couple more announcements in the next few months.
Thank you.
It’s a pleasure.


*** This exclusive feature interview was originally published in May 2024 edition of Casino Life Magazine Issue 165 ***