Guv: Maybe Philly doesn't need 2nd casino

Posted: January 04, 2011

Gov. Rendell yesterday said that state legislators and the Gaming Control Board should study whether Philadelphia needs a second casino, now that a license held by a group of his longtime supporters has been revoked.

Rendell noted that SugarHouse casino opened on Delaware Avenue, in Fishtown, in September, and that the Parx Casino, in Bensalem, and Harrah's in Chester are just a short drive away on Interstate 95.

Rendell also anticipates that the backers of a smaller resort casino proposed for Valley Forge will win a legal challenge being considered by the state Supreme Court.

"If that's the case, you'll have three-and-a-half full-blown casinos serving the metropolitan area," Rendell said. "I think we'll have to take a look at that and see if there's another part of the state that is underserved. The one thing we don't want to do is cannibalize business."

The Gaming Control Board on Dec. 16 revoked the license of a group of local investors who once planned to open a casino on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street using the Foxwoods brand of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut.

The board acted after the investors submitted incomplete paperwork for a new deal to have Caesars Entertainment, which runs Harrah's in Chester, take over the South Philly project.

Stephen Cozen, an attorney for the local investors, declined to comment on Rendell's remarks. The investors have until Jan. 22 to challenge the board's revocation order in court.

"We paid $50 million for a license," Cozen said of the casino investors. "We have an investor and an operator ready to build the second casino. And if we have to exhaust our appellate rights, no matter how long it takes, that is our present intention."

At least three state legislators - two Republicans, one Democrat - are crafting legislation that would put the second Philadelphia casino license up for bid statewide.

Rendell yesterday said he knows that the city is counting on projected local tax revenue from a second casino, but "that can only be part of the consideration" on whether the license stays here.

The city's five-year financial plan projected $13.7 million per year in taxes from the second casino, starting in July 2012.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Democrat from West Philly and the ranking legislator from the city in Harrisburg, urged the Gaming Control Board two weeks ago to be ready to "move forward in an expedited manner" to grant the second license in the city if the revocation is upheld in a legal ruling. Hughes wrote that the "sheer size of the gaming market in southeastern Pennsylvania would result in a huge economic impact for the state, the city of Philadelphia and the region."

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