Developer May Seek Temporary Philly Casino Structure

Fri October 23, 2009 - Northeast Edition
CEG




PHILADELPHIA (AP) The developer of one of two slot-machine casinos planned on the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia said it is thinking about building a temporary casino rather than putting up a permanent structure in phases — an idea that drew immediate criticism.

Foxwoods Casino notified Pennsylvania gambling regulators Oct. 16 that it would “seriously consider’’ the idea at its South Philadelphia site. Company attorney F. Warren Jacoby told the Gaming Control Board in a letter that “unanticipated new issues’’ involving financing may force Foxwoods to ask the state’s approval of a facility that could be built quickly.

Regulators have ordered that 1,500 slot machines be operational by May 29, 2011. Jacoby said the company had hired investment bankers to help it secure more financing, and potential investigators had expressed a preference for building a casino without interim phases, although he did not say why.

“To a large extent ... the realities of the current national credit and financial markets are driving the initial phases of development,’’ he wrote.

Brian Abernathy, an aide to Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose district includes the Foxwoods site, immediately criticized the idea. “A box surrounded by a sea of parking isn’t doing gaming right,’’ he said. A spokesman for Mayor Nutter said the mayor had not read the letter and declined comment

Jethro Heiko of Casino-Free Philadelphia said such a project would be at an immediate competitive disadvantage, citing existing casinos to the north at Philadelphia Park in Bensalem and to the south at Harrah’s in Chester.

“Because saturation is already taking hold, to be honest, it doesn’t matter if it’s interim or temporary; there are already too many slots in the state,’’ Heiko said.

Three of the state’s nine operating slots parlors in temporary facilities: two in grandstands at racetracks and one in a separate structure in Washington.

The company said it had not hired a design and construction team although architectural renderings for any type of structure must be submitted by Dec. 1. State and city permits are also required.

Earlier in October, developers broke ground for the city’s other planned slot-machine casino, the SugarHouse Casino along the waterfront in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Both projects have encountered stiff opposition from city officials and residents fearing increased crime, poverty and other social problems.