Casino bidders make final arguments before gaming board

Bart Blatstein would borrow $600 million he needs for the Provence, at Broad and Callowhill Streets.
Bart Blatstein would borrow $600 million he needs for the Provence, at Broad and Callowhill Streets.
Posted: February 28, 2014

During final arguments Wednesday on who should get Philadelphia's second casino license, applicants' lawyers took potshots at other proposals and dismissed SugarHouse Casino's argument that there are too few gamblers to support another casino.

At the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's hearing in Harrisburg, the applicants, as well as SugarHouse and a neighborhood group opposed to the Provence, were allowed 15 minutes to summarize their cases without introducing any new evidence.

"It will now be this board's duty to make a decision, which we certainly hope to do in the not-too-distant future," Chairman William H. Ryan Jr. said when they were done.

Gaming commissioners began preliminary deliberations on the Philadelphia decision during a Feb. 19 conference call, Ryan said.

John Donnelly, an attorney for SugarHouse, urged the board to pause.

"What I ask you to do is, stay your hand. I ask you to wait, at the bare bones, until the legislature completes its study," Donnelly told the board.

In December, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee was asked to study and report by May 1 on "the current condition and future viability of gaming and the industry's potential for growth" in Pennsylvania.

There is no clear indication in that resolution that a likely recommendation would be a change to the state's gaming law that mandates a second casino be located in Philadelphia.

The gaming board, which stripped the original second Philadelphia license from Foxwoods in December 2010, launched a new application process for that same license in 2012 despite widespread concern that the Philadelphia market was already saturated.

A bill passed the House in May 2012 to auction the Foxwoods license statewide, but the move did not have Senate support.

Even after the board rebooted the application process, it didn't rush, giving lawmakers plenty of time to change the law, which says there "shall be" two casinos in Philadelphia.

Of the five current applicants, only Live! Philadelphia, which is backed by Cordish Cos., of Baltimore, and Greenwood Gaming Inc., which owns Parx Casino, did not make a closing argument.

A common theme in rebuttals to SugarHouse's warnings of financial disaster was that competition would benefit the region.

Picking up on that theme, John F. O'Riordan, an attorney for Casino Revolution in South Philadelphia, said the owners of Parx should not be given another casino license. "To give Parx a casino license in South Philadelphia while they have one sitting right on top of the northern tip of Philadelphia would be essentially granting them a monopoly over Philadelphia gambling," O'Riordan said.



comments powered by Disqus