Second round of hearings set for this week on a second Philadelphia casino

Posted: April 11, 2013

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will have a full house Thursday and Friday when it hosts two days of public hearings on Philadelphia's second casino at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Doug Harbach, a gaming board spokesman, said all the slots for speakers have been reserved. Anyone who has not signed up will likely have to wait until a third hearing, scheduled for May 8 in South Philadelphia.

This week's sessions will be held in Room 204 of the Convention Center, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Friday.

For commissioners, it will be a marathon of 485 minutes of testimony from 73 individuals, lawmakers, and neighborhood groups, all interested in weighing in on the prospect of another casino in Philadelphia.

Six developers have applied for the license. The locations are spread between South Philadelphia (Live! Hotel & Casino, Casino Revolution, and Hollywood Philadelphia); Center City (The Provence and Market8); and the central Delaware River waterfront (Wynn Philadelphia).

Sixteen community groups have signed up to present their opinions.

One of them will be Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA), which represents residents who live near the proposed Wynn site, just north of Penn Treaty Park.

In 2006, the last time the gaming board took up the licensing of casinos in Philadelphia, FNA was divided in its position. Most members tilted against the nearby SugarHouse Casino, fearing the project's impact on crime, traffic, and quality of life in the neighborhood. FNA stood in stark contrast to Fishtown Action, which welcomed SugarHouse with open arms.

But Monday night, FNA members were lined up waiting to get into a community meeting at the First Presbyterian Church of Kensington. They voted, 173-55, to support Wynn Philadelphia.

What has changed? Matt Karp, head of FNA's zoning committee, said neighbors cited three main factors in supporting the project:

The potential for revitalizing a site that has been dormant for a lifetime;

The potential for jobs from construction and the resort-casino;

Relief that Wynn was not planning a "slots in a box" and including such amenities as a 22-acre park and River Walk.

"Ever since SugarHouse, we've never had a meeting that so many people attended," Karp said. "So obviously people are very, very interested in the proposal."

Team Wynn was relieved by the vote. "The neighbors really turned out to learn about how the project impacts their community, and that passion and participation is one of the reasons we are so excited about the opportunity to be part of Fishtown," said Terry McKenna, executive vice president of Keating Consulting, which is working on the project with Wynn Resorts.

Karp said neighbors do have some concerns and worries about the Wynn project. They include the lack of open, green space on the south end of the site, and the vastness of the one-story garage.


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

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