That hardly means Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger, as head of the City Planning Commission, will get to pick the license winner. Under Pennsylvania's 2004 casino law, both the awarding of licenses and casino regulation fall to the state Gaming Control Board, appointed by the governor and state legislative leaders.
But as described last week by Greenberger, the scramble for the brass ring this time could be noteworthy for the close communication already taking place quietly between Nutter aides and gaming officials on logistics, as well as for the city's own exacting process now under way to analyze the various casino proposals.
Four of the six competitors have met with city officials to offer detailed previews. Each has been asked to provide design and planning materials, according to Greenberger. The city also hopes to put financial consultants to work assessing the economic impact of each project, including the likelihood of spin-off development, which so far has eluded the riverfront SugarHouse Casino.
Greenberger says the city's goal will be to go before the gaming board at its mid-April hearings and pitch the city's view on the best and worst of the plans.
There's no word on whether the mayor will line up behind any single project - one of which includes an intriguing pledge to spin off two-thirds of the profits for city schools and pension costs. But the more aggressive the mayor's approach, the better the chance that the casino will work as well for all Philadelphians as it does for the casino and lucky gamblers taking home winnings.
As for the expected yearlong deliberations by state regulators, there's a flip-side benefit that offers a last glimmer of hope for casino opponents. During that run-up to the license ruling, state officials should be duty-bound to revisit whether it makes sense to launch yet another casino in an increasingly crowded market.
There's little doubt the new slots and table-games venue will negatively impact revenues at SugarHouse and three other area casinos. And while slots winnings in the Keystone State grew again last year, casino boosters need look no farther than New Jersey or other neighboring states to see that - with gambling revenues hit by competition - the sky isn't the limit anymore with casinos.