City officials will next month tell the state gaming control board what they think of each of the six potential casinos vying for the city's second license.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will hold a public hearing at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Sept. 24 to hear what the Philadelphia City Administration has to say.
“When we complete our analysis of the casino proposals, we hope to outline benefits and drawbacks of each proposal,” said John Mondlak, senior director of real estate development for the Philadelphia Commerce Department and a member of the city team evaluating the six potential projects.
When the board awarded licenses to SugarHouse Casino and the never-got-off-the-ground Foxwood's Casino in 2006, Philadelphia's administration and citizenry complained that the city didn't have much say in the process.
“This type of hearing didn't happen last time around,” Mondlak said.
Back then, some elected officials actively fought the casinos, at least for a time.
This time, the state is re-awarding the license it revoked from Foxwoods. (The Inquirer's Jennifer Lin reports that some SugarHouse investors are fighting this. See story.) City officials want a second casino here.
Mondlak said his boss, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger, has a good relationship with the PGCB, with open communication about what's happening here and in Harrisburg.
Still, he said, the final decision rests with the state. “If you read the gaming law, we don't have a vote, wedon't have a formal place in the process,” Mondlak said. “What (the PGCB) is doing, is the best they can do – giving us the opportunity and a platform.”
The proposed projects are:
The Provence, Tower Entertainment, LLC, 400 North Broad Street.
Market8, Market East Associates, 8th and Market streets.
Wynn Philadelphia, Wynn PA, Inc., 2001 Beach Street and 2001 through 2005 Richmond Street.
Casino Revolution, PHL Local Gaming, LLC, 3333 South Front Street.
Hollywood Casino Philadelphia, PA Gaming Ventures, 700 Packer Avenue.
Live! Hotel and Casino, Stadium Casino LLC, 900 Packer Avenue.
Mondlak outlined the criteria the city is using to evaluate these six in an email:
- The economic impact of gaming activities and associated nongaming activities, measured in terms of job creation, revenue, and the potential to spur additional economic development in the surrounding neighborhood with the input of our economic advisors;
- The effect on surrounding residents and businesses, including issues related to transportation, infrastructure, public safety and incremental social impacts as determined by the City’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, Office of Public Safety and the citizens of Philadelphia; and
- The degree to which the proposals’ design enhances its surroundings and adds positively to the image of the City as determined by the Planning Commission staff.
Greenberger was not available for comment Wednesday, but in the spring, he told PlanPhilly that casinos usually don't spur a lot of economic development outside themselves, and part of the city's challenge was to push all six candidates to be less “stand-alone”. The city also held a series of open-house meetings with residents to get their perspective on the proposals, and Greenberger said the city would also weigh in the neighborhoods' sentiments on the proposals.
The city's evaluation process, including talks with the applicants, likely won't be finished until very close to the hearing, Mondlak said.
Some residents still oppose casinos – Casino-Free Philadelphia is still active, for example - but civic groups have been much more supportive of the proposals, with many already voting in support of the casino that an applicant hopes to build in their neighborhood.
The testimony and information the board receives at the Sept. 24 hearing, which will be held at 11 a.m. in Room 108 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, “will be included in the record upon which the Board will grant or deny the license and will be available for each applicant’s response in their final suitability hearing to be held later this year,” reads the state's press release. The hearing will be streamed live from the Gaming Control Board website at gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
PGCB Spokesman Richard McGarvey said no date has yet been set for the suitability hearing, during which all six applicants will appear before the board to answer board member's questions, but the goal is still sometime late this year. A license is expected to be awarded early in 2014.
Anyone can provide written comments on the remaining license or applicants through Sept. 30, 3013. Go here to do so.
Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.