Hedging bets: The city weighs in on bidders for second casino license

CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gaming Control Board Chairman Bill Ryan listens as Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger (foreground) outlines the city's position.
CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gaming Control Board Chairman Bill Ryan listens as Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger (foreground) outlines the city's position.
Posted: September 26, 2013

MAYOR NUTTER'S staff told the state Gaming Control Board yesterday that it will not take a position on who should win the city's second casino license.

But Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger made it clear that the city prefers two bidders who want to locate in Center City rather than three bidders near the sports stadiums in South Philly.

The sixth bidder, casino developer Steve Wynn's project in Fishtown, prompted concerns that the city has about the potential impact on the nearby SugarHouse casino.

Greenberger, testifying in a hearing where only the administration's input was considered, said the South Philly proposals were less likely to spur economic growth in the surrounding area.

The city weighed that as a factor, along with community impact, job creation, security, traffic congestion and participation by minority and female contractors.

Here are the pros and cons outlined by the city to the gaming board:

Market8 - The city likes the impact this proposal at 8th and Market streets could have on redeveloping an area of Center City that has had problems for years.

The location is near several types of mass transit, but the city said traffic problems are "inevitable" without major work, and it worries about security for patrons at off-site parking.

The Provence - The city said this proposal at Broad and Callowhill streets has the best potential for jobs and taxes while also helping in the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood.

But the project sits in an already congested traffic area that needs to be addressed by the bidder, the city and the state.

Greenberger said Market8 and The Provence "have the greatest potential to spur additional economic benefit," with Market8 having the "most immediate effect," and The Provence a "longer-term revitalization."

Wynn Philadelphia - The city said Wynn has a successful casino brand that could draw new visitors to the area and help redevelop the riverfront.

But the city worries about the impact on SugarHouse, just a mile south of the project's proposed site. It said a "cohesive plan" between the two casinos would allay those concerns, essentially requiring Wynn to cooperate with SugarHouse.

Live! Hotel and Casino - This bidder at 9th Street and Packer Avenue had the best reception from the city for a South Philly proposal, with an experienced operator who already runs Xfinity Live! nearby.

The city's chief concern is that the proposal "performs poorly" on job creation, casino taxes and non-gaming business.

Hollywood Casino - This bid at 7th Street and Packer Avenue also has an experienced bidder, who is proposing to funnel profits to a nonprofit that would help fund the city's school district and pension fund.

The city said it wants a "clearer understanding of exactly what the financial commitment - not projection - would be over the long term" from the nonprofit.

Casino Revolution - The city said this proposal at Front Street and Pattison Avenue has a large site in an isolated section that would reduce the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

But the proposal is unlikely to draw a new audience or expand the number of people who visit the city for casino gambling, the city said, adding that the area was better suited for industrial uses than recreation.

Yesterday's hearing was interrupted for five minutes while a group of about 25 anti-casino protesters chanted and waved signs.

The Gaming Control Board will accept written comments about the bidders until Nov. 29. It will hold final suitability hearings on the bids in Philadelphia on Jan. 28, 29 and 30.

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout.com

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