casino

Gambling 101: Would a new Philly casino be a ‘train wreck’?

Four casinos have bid for a license, and when politics, communities and existing casinos get involved, things can get messy.

Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board is announcing next week if, when and where a new casino will be built in Philly. But there are a lot of moving parts here. Four casinos have bid for a license, and when politics, communities and existing casinos get involved, things can get messy.

Here’s what up with the state of gamblin’:

Another casino? Cool! Slots! Blackjack! Booze! Yeah!

It’s not a sure thing, but it’s close. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that they will be making an announcement on Tuesday (how’s that for planning?) on whether they’ll grant another gaming license in Philadelphia. Technically they could decide to not grant a license at all, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The standalone license enables the casino operator to have up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games. Four applicants are under consideration for the license including:

  • Tower Entertainment, LLC (The Provence) at 400 North Broad Street (aka the former Inquirer & Daily News building)
  • Market East Associates, LP (Market 8 Casino) at 8th and Market Street
  • PHL Local Gaming, LLC (Casino Revolution) at 3333 South Front Street
  • Stadium Casino, LLC (Live! Hotel and Casino) at 900 Packer Avenue

The Inquirer, citing anonymous sources, has indicated that it seems likely that Live! will be granted the license and will be allowed to operate in South Philly, becoming the second casino in the city.

But in the world of gambling, two’s a crowd. And there are three others in the Philadelphia region. Oh, and we’re not a far drive from Atlantic City. That, my friends, is called potential market saturation, meaning there could be too many casinos and not enough gamblers.

For Philly, this has been a long time coming. State regulators shut down the potential for a second casino in 2010 when a Foxwoods Casino project failed. And supporters of a second casino in Philadelphia say the new source of entertainment could bring in more jobs and more tax revenue.

Is this making some other other casinos feel some sort of way?

SugarHouse is pissed. The already-existing Philly casino in Fishtown had testimony taken on the record by the Gaming Control Board, and in filings with the commission, SugarHouse has complained of falling slots revenue in Pennsylvania and the total tanking of Atlantic City’s casinos.

In addition, officials in Delaware County urged the Gaming Control Board to take more time before it made a decision on whether or not to grant another casino license in Philly, Harrah’s Casino in Chester and could take a hit should yet another casino be granted a license to operate in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the state gaming control board, said the group heard testimony from SugarHouse and strongly considered potential market saturation while going through the process of deciding whether or not to award another license.

“The board clearly has been looking at that issue all along,” he said. “There was testimony on the record by SugarHouse on the impact of another license. The board indeed has weighed and is weighing that in this decision.”

But still, some community leaders and politicians are concerned that too many casinos could mean dwindling profits for everyone — and that Philly could turn into the next AC.

“Most of the Philadelphia-area facilities are drawing from the same pool of potential gamblers,” Delaware County Republican state Senator Dominic Pileggi told The Inquirer. “And one of the factors in where the gamblers decide to gamble is how far the facility is from their home.”

Turn into the next Atlantic City? That sounds scary. 

That’s not entirely likely at this point, especially because the economies of each city are so different — Philly’s isn’t dependent on casinos like Atlantic City’s is. But you’ve probably heard that the gambling Mecca of the eastern seaboard is falling to pieces, due in some part to casinos popping up in Pennsylvania.

More than a tenth of Atlantic City’s jobs have been eliminated since the beginning of the year, as four of the city’s 12 casinos shut their doors. The Trump Taj Mahal Casino is also set to close next month unless a miracle happens and, according to NPR, that’d cut another 3,000 jobs.

What about the people in South Philly?

With stadiums and Xfinity Live! crowds already congesting the neighborhood near 10th and Packer in South Philly, some of the area’s 9,000 residents are pretty angry at the idea of a new source of commotion.

About 500 community members gathered in South Philly last week to decry the move after news trickled out that their neighborhood might be home to a new casino, according to The Daily News.

“Your civic leaders have done everything possible to stop this train wreck,” Barbara Capozzi, the Packer Park community director in the Sports Complex Special Services District, told The Daily News. “We don’t want to be the next Atlantic City.”

She continued: “SugarHouse Casino is a heartbreak. I went in there to hear a friend sing and I had to walk through an ashtray to get to the back of the room. It was all poor people. There was a lady in the bathroom crying because she just lost her rent money. I’m telling you, it ain’t Vegas. If you are at all compassionate, SugarHouse is a sad place to be. I don’t want that down here.”

So… what happens after the license is awarded on Tuesday?

People are still likely to feel a certain way about it — whether they’re the casino that wins the license jumping for joy or the pissed off South Philly residents. Harbach said the gaming control board offers an expedited appeal process for any entity that’s a party — AKA the losing casinos and SugarHouse, which was entered in as a party.

If they so choose, any of those parties can file an appeal directly to the state Supreme Court to have a review of the board’s decision. Historically there have been seven competitive license awards in Pennsylvania, and six of them have been appealed. Harbach said all six have been upheld by the court.

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