Philadelphia casinos compete for licenses in city

In the past, casinos have drawn sharp criticism from residents and interest groups

· November 14, 2012, 10:58 pm

There may be a new opportunity on the horizon for students looking to get lucky.

Today, applications are due to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for the remaining Philadelphia casino license, one of two that the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act initially allowed when it was passed in 2004, according to PGCB spokesperson Richard McGarvey.

SugarHouse, the first casino to be awarded a license in Philadelphia, opened in 2010. It was awarded the license on Dec. 20, 2006, along with Foxwoods Casino. However, due to a failure to secure funding, Foxwoods’ license was revoked on Dec. 16, 2010. The PCGB decided in June this year to re-award the license to another casino.

A City of Philadelphia press release indicated an expectation of six different applicants for the remaining license.

There are currently 11 casinos operating in the state of Pennsylvania.

Currently among the leading candidates are Tower Investments, Inc. and Stadium Casino, LLC.

Tower Investments, which delivered their application to the PGCB Wednesday, hopes to open a 120,000 square foot resort and casino complex called the Provence on North Broad Street.

Stadium Casino, LLC is a partnership involving Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, Inc., which owns the state’s top-grossing casino, Parx, in Bensalem. They have proposed a casino-hotel at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, costing between $425 and $500 million.

McGarvey said, “What these groups are going to be doing is saying, ‘this is what we expect to bring to Philadelphia by opening a casino there,’” in terms of job creation and economic development.

For example, Tower Investments, Inc. estimated that the Provence would bring 6,400 construction jobs and 7,800 permanent jobs to Philadelphia. Additionally, they estimate an average of $183 million per year in gaming tax-revenues for the city and state.

In the past, casinos have drawn harsh criticism from some Philadelphia residents.

“[Casinos] are in the business of fostering and exploiting gambling addiction,” Dan Hajdo, spokesperson for the anti-gambling group Casino-Free Philadelphia, said in an email.

He added that because it is their business model “to draw in local residents and hook them on gambling,” they do not produce economic development.

“Those in the 18-21 age group are at higher risk for gambling addiction than other age groups,” Hajdo said.

Wharton and Engineering senior and Penn Poker Club President Varant Zanoyan thinks a nearby casino could bring a lot to the Penn community, if it is a nice one.

Zanoyan said he and most students he knows travel to casinos in Atlantic City. “If [the new casino] is 15 minutes away as opposed to an hour and a half, that could change some of the habits for people at Penn.”

Wharton senior Evan Lyons, another poker player, likes the idea of another casino in close proximity to the University.

“I think it’s good if a [casino] can come in within 30 minutes of University City,” he said, adding that other casinos in the area are too far away or of poor quality.

2012 Wharton graduate Royce Cohen is an avid poker player who has lived in or near Philadelphia his entire life. He said he does not mind another casino in the city because it’s more accessible than Parx or Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in Chester, which can entail expensive cab rides.

Cohen said poker offers a unique opportunity for Penn students.

“Poker is a game of intellect and mental capacity,” he said. “The average Penn student who might play poker would be more educated than the average Philadelphian who might do the same.”

He added, “it’s not always professional poker players you’re playing with. It can be compulsive gamblers or people who shouldn’t be there, so it can be a profitable opportunity.”

“I’ve never encountered any sign of addiction, degeneracy or unhealthy habits. In fact, it’s been quite the contrary,” Zanoyan said. “Everyone that I play with studies the game and uses it as a venue for applied statistics and other theories. It’s much more intellectual.”

Comments powered by Disqus