Dec. 20, 2006
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday granted initial approval for slots casinos in Philadelphia. Both projects will be on the Central Delaware River waterfront.
The approved proposals were SugarHouse in Northern Liberties and Foxwoods in South Philadelphia. See Inquirer evaluations of the sites: SugarHouse and Foxwoods.
Five casino concerns applied for licenses. A graphical look at the proposed casinos
The rejected proposals were TrumpStreet (Nicetown), Pinnacle (Fishtown) and Riverwalk, which was Mayor John Street’s preference and would have been sited on an old city-owned incinerator site.
Foxwoods calls for a $560 million project that will be built on a 30-acre spot near Columbus Boulevard and big box stores Home Depot and Target. Sugarhouse is a $550 million project on 22.6 acres at Shackamaxon St and Delaware Ave. The SugarHouse project will include 3,000 slot machines, restaurants, a plaza, and a pedestrian promenade.|
Formal licenses for development at the sites will not be granted until lawsuits filed on behalf of community groups challenging Pennsylvania’s gaming law are heard.
Casino Free Philadelphia is one of the groups fighting the law that supports casinos. The group argues that the citizens of affected neighborhoods haven’t been involved in the process of reviewing the proposals, including public comment.
One of the main issues opponents of the waterfront casino projects site is the impact two casinos near Delaware Avenue and I-95 will have on neighborhoods in regards to traffic and safety.
Earlier this week, an advisory group chaired by the Philadelphia Planning Commission and mandated by Mayor Street in October to develop a lasting plan for the Central Delaware Waterfront asked the mayor in an open letter to support slowing down the casino approval process so that all projects on the riverfront could be included in a master plan.
Last week, City Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose district is home to both locations and most of the heavy industry on the Delaware River and already clogged with traffic, also asked for a six-month delay in licensing to allow further review of the plans. DiCicco was disappointed in the approval process Wednesday and says he will file a lawsuit in order to get a clearer picture what criteria was used and how the gaming board came to its decisions.
"For the life of me, I just can't figure out how the gaming board made this decision. I've always felt Foxwoods was by far the worst site," DiCicco said. "People who are familiar with the area don't need me to tell them about the traffic problems. There's total gridlock now. I don't know how anyone will be able to get to the river."
James Paylor Jr, vice president of the International Longshoremen’s Association AFL-CIO, said any casino project has to respect the nature of the working port.
“We need a deeper river and more space,” he said. “Here’s what we’re concerned about the casinos. They could create congestion at existing facilities … the next step would be to close us down. They should make it compatible with a working port. Other competing ports are spending billions to update, modernize and expand. They built casinos in the middle of the desert and millions of people came. Why do they have to be on the waterfront?”
Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront (NABR), has criticized the slots approval process and is urging its members to gather for two candlelight vigils tonight starting at the SugarHouse site and moving on to South Philadelphia.
Mayor Street, who has taken a pragmatic view of casinos in Philadelphia since the licensing process casino has been totally in the state’s control, was happy with the waterfront siting.
“We should make it work for the city and our neighborhoods," he said after the announcement from Harrisburg. "Both are committed to first-class projects and they are ready to work with the city and the neighborhoods about traffic and other things. I do believe we have to get in gear because there are a couple of ramps that have to built.”
A look at the five proposals