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Rob Norton

President, Cordish Gaming Group

Rob Norton

Earlier this year, as virtually the entire gaming industry shut down amid the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the very few operators that remained in growth mode was the Cordish Companies.

Despite a few Covid-related interruptions, Baltimore-based Cordish managed to keep construction going on two major projects that will open within the next year. Through its Pennsylvania-based subsidiary Stadium Casino, Cordish is on track to open that state’s first Category 4 “mini-casino,” Live! Casino Pittsburgh, by end of this year.

By early 2021, Cordish will open Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia in the heart of the South Philadelphia Stadium District, home to all four of the city’s professional sports teams.

Meanwhile, the company is launching its iGaming platform in Pennsylvania with leading provider GAN, along with an existing sports betting deal with FanDuel. Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming Group, spoke with Global Gaming Business Editor Frank Legato in August about how the company keeps growing during a difficult time.

GGB: You just launched your online gaming site, PlayLive! In Pennsylvania, becoming the first online gaming site to operate before a bricks-and-mortar facility was open. How did you get the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to agree to this?

Rob Norton: We approached them about launching the site in advance and talked about the benefits to the bricks-and-mortar facility. There was nothing in the legislation that prevented it. The PGCB has been an incredibly good partner in helping us get through the launch of this online site. It’s the first time we’ve ever done it, and we couldn’t have done it without their support.

What went into the decision to choose GAN as your partner?

We’ve been partners with GAN for nearly 10 years in operating a social casino gaming site. We did this exact same play when we were opening the Live! Casino in Maryland, only it was a social casino, not a real-money operation. We used the GAN platform for that site to recruit potential players for the bricks-and-mortar facility. We had a relationship with GAN, and they were already active with other customers in Pennsylvania. We wanted to do this quickly, (so) it wasn’t a tough decision.

FanDuel is your other partner in Pennsylvania. Is that because they were also active in that state?

Yes, but quite candidly, we believe they’re the best-in-class operator in the sports betting business right now, and we believe we’re the best-in-class operator in bricks-and-mortar casinos. So, in this case, one plus one equals three. When we bring them on board for the Live! Casino in Philadelphia, it’s going to be one of the most exciting products to ever hit the East Coast.

There’s a lot of competition in the Philadelphia area for sports betting—not only the casinos that all have books now, but the Greenwood Turf Club as well, which is right across the street from your casino. How will you differentiate the FanDuel sportsbook from others?

It’s part of our corporate DNA that we don’t shy away from competition. We believe competition makes you better. In this case, I’m very excited what we’re bringing to the market. Our sportsbook in Philadelphia is being developed in a way that will be a market leader.

How were you able to maintain construction of the Philadelphia casino throughout the Covid crisis?

It really started at the corporate level. We took the Covid-19 situation very seriously, starting in late January, when it was becoming apparent this would become very serious. We started working on plans on the operations and construction side to deal with this. We did have some modest closures on the construction side that were mandated, but we implemented “Play It Safe,” which is our brand for how to respond to Covid in both our operations and construction divisions. Safety and health is our top priority, because if we do it right, everybody benefits.  

“In the case of the theater, you can’t build it for 5,000 people and then plan to operate it with only 2,000. It’s not built that way.”

—Scott Sibella, president, Resorts World Las Vegas, who hopes to be “past all this,” meaning Covid-19, by the time the $4.3 billion resort opens in summer 2021

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.