Casino gaming has been good for Philadelphia, but could have been better if the state ran the license application process differently, Sen. Larry Farnese wrote in a Monday letter to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Chairman William Ryan.
Farnese said he's pleased that six applicants are seeking the second license, as his constituents talk to him more about the need for jobs than anything. But he advises the Board to conduct the selection process in ways that provide Philadelphians with more information and many chances for input.
“To date, SugarHouse has generated nearly $18 million for the City and School District of Philadelphia. I believe SugarHouse could be even more successful, and a second casino already in operation, had there been a more thorough and open process in 2006,” he said.
Farnese added that rightly or wrongly, many people felt that the two licenses awarded last time – to SugarHouse and to Foxwoods, which lost the license now up for grabs – were “chosen based on political favoritism rather than the merit of their applications.”
He went on to write: “This Board now has a unique opportunity to make this process better by learning from the experiences of the past.”
All current applicants have chosen sites within Farnese's First Senatorial District. Among his suggestions for the PGCB:
Hold at least three public hearings within the district, without “artificially” limiting testimony or prohibiting people who have not signed up ahead of time from speaking.
Place all applications and related documents, including traffic studies, on the board's website at least 15 days before the start of the public comment period.
Keep the public comment period open until the close of the evidentiary record.
Alert every public official with a casino proposed for his or her district in an email alert system that notifies them of important license-related events and filing dates.