Phila. casino backers say they'd open six months earlier than other applicants

Joe Procacci, Chairman of the Board/CEO of PHL Local Gaming, stands in the produce warehouse at Front St. and Pattison Ave. that he wants to convert into a casino. PHL Local Gaming is one of six bidders for a casino gaming license in Philadelphia. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )
Joe Procacci, Chairman of the Board/CEO of PHL Local Gaming, stands in the produce warehouse at Front St. and Pattison Ave. that he wants to convert into a casino. PHL Local Gaming is one of six bidders for a casino gaming license in Philadelphia. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )
Posted: November 16, 2013

Backers of Casino Revolution in South Philadelphia on Thursday said an economic impact study failed to take into account two key financial advantages of their proposal for the corner of Front Street and Pattison Avenue.

If PHL Local Gaming L.L.C. were to win the city's second casino license, it could open six months earlier than competitors because it has an existing building where it will install slot machines and has the space to expand from 2,400 slot machines at opening to the full 5,000 allowed by law, company officials said.

Together, that six-month jump would mean an additional $41.6 million in city and state taxes, said John Burke, a member of PHL Local Gaming's board and a former chief financial officer for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.

"It's just something we feel like we should get credit for," Burke said.

Asked about widely expressed doubts that enough demand exists in the Philadelphia region for another casino, PHL Local officials said their plans for the so-called "LoSo" entertainment center on land adjacent to the site of the proposed $428 million casino would help attract new gamblers.

Joseph Canfora, president of PHL Local, even spoke of attracting gamblers from Maryland, whose new casinos have contributed to a 17 percent decline in gambling revenue at Harrah's in Chester.

In the third quarter, casino revenue in the Philadelphia market fell 2 percent compared to the year before, the first decline since table games started in 2010, according to data from Bloomberg News.

Penn National Gaming Inc. and Cordish Cos., PHL Local's two competitors in South Philadelphia, each proposing fewer slot machines, both recently described their casino proposals as "rightsized" for the market.

To help attract tenants to LoSo, PHL Local has brought on Nicholas Lillo, a leasing expert who specializes in lining up restaurants for shopping centers.

Some of the land eyed for LoSo is occupied by the former Food Distribution Center. Envisioned for the site are an Olympic-size swimming pool, a zip-line park, soccer fields, restaurants, and more.

PHL Local is headed by Joseph Procacci, whose Procacci Bros. Sales Corp. is a major supplier of fresh tomatoes to fast-food restaurants and supermarkets.

hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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