Live! Hotel & Casino: We're the best choice for 2nd casino

Posted: January 31, 2014

THE OWNERS OF Live! Hotel & Casino told the state Gaming Control Board yesterday that their combined industry experience make them the best choice for Philadelphia's second casino license.

"We are the owner-operators, and we are not depending on anyone else's money," said Joseph Weinberg, a president of Cordish Cos.

Cordish has partnered with Greenwood Racing to form Stadium Casino, pitching the Live! project on Packer Avenue near Darien Street in South Philadelphia.

Cordish already operates other casinos, including ones in Maryland and Florida, and owns Xfinity Live! near the sports stadiums.

Greenwood Racing also owns the Parx Casino in Bensalem, as well as two off-track-betting spots in Center City and South Philly.

"We have the best location and the best team," Weinberg said during the last of three days of "suitability hearings" at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Tony Ricci, Greenwood CEO, said a property owner asked Greenwood to partner in a casino project for Center City but he turned him down because he didn't think it would work.

Ricci said the stadium location already enjoys a robust fan base attending major sporting events, plus the proximity to major highways would mean less traffic disruption than in Center City.

When a board commissioner asked Weinberg if he worried that the Live! Casino would hurt his business at Xfinity Live!, Weinberg said it wouldn't because patrons would go to both venues.

Yesterday afternoon, SugarHouse Casino stated its case to the gaming board: that none of the five applicants should get a license, at least not in the next two or three years.

Neil Bluhm chair of HSP Gaming, which owns SugarHouse, said the casino market in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York is becoming saturated.

"There is no lost tribe of gamblers out there," waiting for a new casino to be built, Bluhm said.

SugarHouse presented a slide showing that slot revenues were down 6.17 percent in 2013 for Parx, SugarHouse and Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in Chester.

"Why add a casino when the market is sinking?" Bluhm asked.

He also noted that SugarHouse, on Delaware Avenue near Shackamaxon Street, soon will begin a $155 million expansion.

Bluhm asked the board to delay awarding a second license until the economy rebounds and to evaluate the market after the SugarHouse expansion. The expansion was planned before the economy went bust in 2008, he added.

Mary Cheeks, vice president for finance for both SugarHouse and the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, said that contrary to the Live! presentation, business at Rivers drops on game days.

"I live in great fear of [the Philadelphia casino market] becoming like Atlantic City," Cheeks said.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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