Gaming board grants petition to intervene in casino license to schools, synagogue and SugarHouse

Posted: January 10, 2014

THE PENNSYLVANIA Gaming Control Board yesterday granted a petition to intervene filed by Rodeph Shalom Synagogue and two schools, allowing them to present testimony later this month in the suitability hearings for the Provence Casino proposed for North Broad Street.

In mid-December, the synagogue, the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School and the Friends Select School jointly filed a petition stating that Bart Blatstein's Tower Entertainment proposal for a casino and resort hotel at Broad and Callowhill streets would create tremendous traffic and parking problems for their institutions.

All five of the applicants who filed for Philadelphia's second casino license are scheduled to appear before the gaming board Jan. 28 to 30 as the next step in the board's decision to award the license.

In addition to the intervention petition from the synagogue and schools, the gaming board also approved SugarHouse Casino's petition to intervene in the cases of all five casino applicants.

Lawyer John Donnelly, who spoke on behalf of SugarHouse, argued that there are already too many casinos not only in Philadelphia, but in the Mid-Atlantic region and on the East Coast.

Colleen Puckett, director of marketing and communications for Friends Select School, at 17th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway, told the board: "We are fearful this is going to have a direct disadvantage to us if parents have a choice of sending their children to an excellent Quaker school that is not next to a casino and a Quaker school next to a casino."

"I was shocked, actually, and gratified that they heard us," Puckett said after the hearing, held at the Gaming Control Board's Harrisburg office. "It gave me a renewed faith in the system that the system was available to the little guy."

Frank Keel, spokesman for Tower Entertainment and the Provence Casino, said yesterday that Blatstein had no comment on the hearing.

In addition to Tower Entertainment, the other casino applicants are: PA Gaming Ventures LLC, which wants to build Hollywood Casino at 7th Street and Packer Avenue; Market East Associates, which wants to put a casino at 8th and Market streets; PHL Local Gaming, for Casino Revolution at Front Street and Packer Avenue; and Stadium Casino LLC, which is behind Live! Hotel and Casino, proposed for Packer Avenue near 9th Street.

Larry Spector, a lawyer representing the synagogue and schools, showed a map that included about 30 schools and religious institutions within a 1,500-foot radius of the planned Provence Casino.

He said the Tower Entertainment application listed only eight such institutions and "does not mention the charter school, which is directly across the street, nor Community College of Philadelphia, or Masterman or Ben Franklin high schools."

He also showed a map of various parking lots that the Tower application shows as possible sites to lease for casino patrons.

Regarding a lot on Vine Street at 16th, Spector said: "The Mormon Church owns the land, and they are not going to be leasing it for casino parking."

The charter school has plans for a gym and classroom space on another lot on Buttonwood Street near 13th.

"We are not community organizations [or] neighborhood associations," Spector told the board. "We are not-for-profit, of course, but we are essentially businesses here that have an interest in what happens in the area."


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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