Brady's casino proposal hits a snag

Bob Brady at a press conference earlier in November. Photo by Sara Khan.
Bob Brady at a press conference earlier in November. Photo by Sara Khan.
Posted: November 20, 2012

BOB BRADY is "a little confused and a lot frustrated."

Maybe his friend, Mayor Nutter, is a busy guy who just didn't have time to tell his staff about a phone call the two had on Wednesday regarding his proposed plan for the city to partner with Penn National Gaming Inc. on a casino along Packer Avenue.

Or, maybe, he forgot.

Either way, Brady was surprised to read a story in the Inquirer Sunday that said Nutter was "never dialed into the plan" and that city officials only heard of it from news stories on Thursday.

"I have no idea why he's saying I didn't talk to him," Brady said. "Why wouldn't I talk to the mayor? I wouldn't go around the mayor. I would want his cooperation, not his impediment."

Last week, Brady - who had previously proposed that the city snatch up Philadelphia's second casino license and build its own casino on 27 acres at the city-owned site of the former Food Distribution Center on Packer Avenue near 3rd Street - got a call from Penn National Gaming, which said it wanted to participate in the project.

"I was extremely elated," Brady said. "I called the mayor right away and told him exactly what they told me.

According to state gaming laws, Penn National, which already runs a casino outside of Harrisburg, can only own a third of a stake in a second casino. Under this proposal the city would get the remaining two-thirds of a stake in the casino.

However, Nutter has stressed that the city cannot own a casino because it would be a violation under state law. So, Brady and Penn National proposed that a nonprofit be established to receive the city's share.

The city could then transfer the Packer Avenue site to Penn National and, in exchange, Penn National would pay for the costs of building and the gaming license.

Penn National already owns a 13-acre site on Packer Avenue near 7th Street that could also be used for casino.

Brady said the profits reaped by the city would go to the municipal pension plan and the school district.

In letters sent from the Nutter administration on Friday to the state Gaming Control Board and the chief compliance officer of Penn National, the plan was referred to as a "gambit" that could result in lawsuits.

The letters said the city is "legally prohibited" from participating, and the plan could be "an attempt by an applicant to gain advantage over other applicants by attempting to 'partner' with the city government in this venture."

Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said in an email Sunday that the day before applications were due for the second Philadelphia casino license, which was Wednesday, "the mayor had two brief phone conversations [with Brady] where he provided some 'ideas' and 'concepts.' "

McDonald wrote that Nutter asked Brady to have a Penn National official contact Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development. Brady and Greenberger spoke, but a Penn National official never reached out to Greenberger, McDonald said.

However, Brady said he was with Nutter on Nov. 4 and told the mayor that he was in talks with a developer. Brady said Nutter told him to have the developer call him, which the developer did, but Brady said Nutter never called the developer back.

McDonald also wrote that Penn National never made a presentation to the administration, as the other five potential applicants for the gaming license did.

"And so, Admin officials do not have PN's detailed plan [sic]," McDonald wrote. "We have only media reports and some comments from the congressmen."

McDonald went on to write that the administration has "no interest in taking an equity interest in a gaming venue" but that if the casino still wanted to donate two-thirds of its profits "out of the goodness of their corporate heart," it could cut the city a check.

Brady said he's "completely confused" by Nutter's position.

"I don't understand him, and he's my friend," Brady said. "Instead of getting attorneys to figure out how not to do this, get your attorneys to figure out how to do it.

"There's a million ways to get around this if you want to, and I don't understand it," he said. "Why not give kids' books instead of millionaires another Learjet?"

" @FarFarrAway

Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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