Thursday, December 16, 2010

Editorial: Pennsylvania Should Allow A Re-Worked Foxwoods Philly Casino To Become A Reality

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Conrol Board has the opportunity today to assure that a second Philadelphia casino will soon become a reality. The gaming board will consider a petition to revoke the license awarded to Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners. The state's best bet is to go forward with the new plans presented by the group, which includes a gaming arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and some prominent Philadelphians who have given much to the community.

The casino group contends that an agreement with Harrah's, which changed their name to Caesar's in recent days, will secure the needed changes to make the casino a reality. What more assurances are needed? To delay a decision will be yet another uneccessary roadblock that could doom the project, partly because of new state gaming board appointments in the coming year.

What's the alternative? Revoke the license and tack on several more years until a second Philadelphia casino is built?

Not all of the misteps were made by the casino group. The state should lay the blame where it belongs. Philadelphia city officials threw as many roadblocks as they could in the path of the proposed casino investors in defiance of the state gaming board that awarded the license. In defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling too, if I remember the events correctly. These early stumbling blocks were done intentionally by city officials and, what's worse - maliciously, at a critical time for the casino investment group. At a time when the group could have gone forward with building the casino. Since then, the group fell on difficult economic times.

The investment group never guaranteed they could build a casino over an indefinite time period. The gaming board awarded the casino license based, in part, on its review of the casino group's finances at the time the license was issued. So the gaming board agreed then that the casino could have been built early in the process. But for the malicious tactics of city officials that strung out that process, to the point where it was no longer feasible, the casino would be open by now.

If a lack of good faith is to be laid at anyone's door, it belongs at the door of city hall, not at the casino investors' door.

I don't criticize the mayor's office lightly. I've walked through the city hall's doors many times, albeit under the administration of the previous mayor and current governor while I worked at the city government's former 1600 Arch Street office.

So why blame the casino investment group? Earlier this year, the group relied on what seemed to have been a deal in the making with Steve Wynn. It fell through. Stuff happens but the investment group has consistently acted in good faith throughout the ordeal. Perhaps the same cannot be said for other parties involved throughout the entire process.

The petition to revoke the group's license should be denied. Nobody loses. If it later becomes apparent that the casino group can't follow through, then another petition can always be submitted. But not denying the petition today will be a tremendous injustice not just to the casino group but to the charitable groups that will get a cut of the profits, and to the integrity of gaming board's licensing process.

Let Gov. Rendell check off one last item on his list before he steps down from office next month.