Phila. casino applicants assess 'cannibalization'

Backers of the Provence casino plan estimate half their revenue would be money that would not have been spent at another casino.
Backers of the Provence casino plan estimate half their revenue would be money that would not have been spent at another casino.
Posted: January 29, 2014

There is no doubt that if a second casino opens in Philadelphia, business will dip at SugarHouse and other area casinos.

But how much? That will be a central question during the three days of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearings that start Tuesday for five applicants seeking Philadelphia's second casino license.

The gaming board last year directed applicants to say whether they thought the Philadelphia region was already saturated with places to gamble.

The applicants were also asked to estimate how much each proposal would add to losses by Philadelphia-area gamblers, as opposed to simply taking business from SugarHouse, Parx, Harrah's, or Valley Forge. Taking existing casinos' business is called cannibalization.

The owners of SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown will have a chance Thursday to present evidence to the gaming board that a second casino in the city would harm the industry.

"Simply put, the supply of gaming product has outstripped demand," SugarHouse's attorney, John M. Donnelly, wrote in a legal filing last month.

The applicants disagree.

Bart Blatstein's Provence and Ken Goldenberg's Market8 - both vying to build in central Philadelphia - have released cannibalization estimates for their own projects and the others. The three remaining applicants are Casino Revolution, Live! Philadelphia, and Hollywood Casino Philadelphia.

Provence - proposed along Callowhill Street west of Broad Street - estimated that about half its projected revenue from slot machines and table games would be new money into the industry, money that would not have been spent at another casino.

The Provence analysis, by Spectrum Gaming Group L.L.C., estimated Casino Revolution's new revenue at 36 percent of overall revenue, Market8's at 35 percent, and Live! Philadelphia's at 34 percent. Spectrum said that 30 percent of Hollywood Casino's revenue would represent an increase to the overall size of the region's gambling pie.

Just as Market8 is bullish on its estimates of overall revenue for the proposed casino at Eighth and Market Streets, its backers are more optimistic than competitors on how much more money area residents and visitors will lose in a new casino.

Market8 said 78 percent of its projected revenue would be new, while 69 percent of the revenue at Provence would be new.

PFK Consulting USA, working for Market8, made one estimate for a casino in South Philadelphia, where three applicants have lined up close to I-76, and suggested that 65 percent of the revenue would be new.

Joe Procacci's Casino Revolution, at the other extreme, estimated that in the first year of operations a South Philadelphia casino would take $185 million in revenue from current casinos in the area, about 17 percent of the total, Procacci's spokesman, A. Bruce Crawley, said.

That would force the existing casinos to retool themselves for the competition, as has happened repeatedly around the country, Crawley said. "That will eventually, over time, about four years on average, allow them to return to previously existing revenue levels," Crawley said.

Live! said its casino near the sports stadiums would boost annual gambling revenue in the region by $41 million more each year than the Center City locations would. Incremental state tax revenue over a decade would be $170 million more for Live! than for the Center City proposals, Live! said. The company did not break down the gain relative to its overall projected revenue.

Hollywood Casino said it provided cannibalization reports to the gaming board, but declined to release them Monday.


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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