Steve Wynn proposes riverfront casino in Fishtown

Posted: November 09, 2012

Steve Wynn has become the third contender to offer to build a casino and hotel in Philadelphia, on a 60-acre site on the Delaware River waterfront in Fishtown that he described as "delicious."

The chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., which has casino-hotels in Las Vegas and Macau, said in an interview Thursday that he would apply for the city's second license with the state Gaming Control Board by the deadline of next Thursday.

The company, he added, has turned over to the Nutter administration a required report on the local impact of the proposed project.

The property would be called Wynn Philadelphia and have a 300-room hotel similar to the Encore at Wynn Macau, in the special administrative region of China. The casino would cover 150,000 square feet, and include 2,500 slots and 100 table games.

"You can stay in the hotel if you're in Philadelphia without the casino dominating everything," he said.

This is the second time Wynn has shown interest in Philadelphia. In April 2010, he agreed to partner with local investors to salvage the faltering Foxwoods project on Columbus Boulevard. But a week after he revealed his involvement, he dropped out.

The gaming board revoked the license for Foxwoods in late 2011 after repeated delays.

Wynn said he was asked by his friend Ronald Rubin, one of the partners in Foxwoods and the former chief executive of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, to help with the project.

"Ronnie got me to do it as a favor last time," Wynn said. "But the deal was so screwed up and complicated that we couldn't function at the end of the day."

He said there were problems with the South Philadelphia site as well as financial issues with the partnership. The final straw, Wynn said, was learning that he would have to work with a builder not of his choosing. Rubin could not be reached for comment.

The Fishtown parcel, owned by New Hope builder James Anderson, stretches on North Beach Street from Palmer to Cumberland Streets.

"It's such a perfect site," Wynn said. "It allows for the ... creation of a destination resort that these local casinos haven't done before."

Wynn said the board of directors of Wynn Resorts signed off on the project two weeks ago. In a visit to Philadelphia soon after, Wynn said, he made an unannounced visit to the floor of the SugarHouse Casino, a few blocks to the southwest. "Three of the dealers yelled out, 'Hey, Mr. Wynn,' " he said.

Wynn said the proximity to SugarHouse, the city's first casino, would not be a problem for his proposed project.

"It's good to be near SugarHouse, good to have us together in a neighborhood where people have choice," Wynn said. "It's like the fast-food business."

Wynn said he would not have an artist's rendering of the project until Tuesday.

Two other groups already have come forward with plans for casinos.

Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein is proposing a casino, hotel, retailing and entertainment complex on North Broad Street at Callowhill Street. His project - the Provence - would incorporate the former building of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com.

In South Philadelphia, a partnership including the owners of the Parx Casino in Bensalem and the Cordish Cos. of Baltimore would build a hotel and casino incorporating the current Holiday Inn on Packer Avenue. Stadium Casino would have 2,000 slot machines and 125 table games in a property next to the sports complex.

Wynn said he would work with local builder Dan Keating to advance the project through the application process. "If it makes sense for the state of Pennsylvania, we'll get picked," he said. "If not, fine."

He said he did not want to get entangled in "political machinations."

"We're presenting our credentials, our brand, and our product without political razzmatazz," Wynn said. "We are who we are and it's a delicious piece of real estate."


Contact Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @j_linq.

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