“You nine folks hold the keys to the kingdom,” North Philadelphia resident Penelope Giles said to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, in town Thursday to hear citizen input on a new city casino.
Giles, speaking out in favor of The Provence — a proposed French-themed resort and casino at Broad and Callowhill streets — was one of several dozen city residents on hand to give their preferences as to which of the six proposals is best for the city.
Politicians, civic organizations and citizens had the chance to go before the PGCB, including its chairman, William Ryan Jr. on Thursday in the first of three days of public input hearings.
While no decisions were made at the meeting — the final decision is still many months off — the hearing gave citizens a forum to have their voices heard.
Testifying first was state Sen. Lawrence Farnese (D-Philadelphia), whose jurisdiction includes the locations of all six proposals. He said it would be “unfair” for him to pick a casino preference at this time.
He also urged the board to look beyond which proposal will raise the most tax revenue and instead look at which will have the best overall economic and societal impact.
Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger, who also chairs the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, testified on behalf of the city. He said the city was not ready to name a favorite proposal at this time but mapped out the methodology by which the city will look at the casino.
He added that the city has hired an economic consultant to help evaluate the benefits of each proposal and has aggregated input from citizens during three listening sessions held two weeks ago.
Greenberger said traffic is a major consideration, particularly for The Provence and the three proposals in south Philadelphia.
Among citizens, who spoke after the public officials and organizations, the biggest support at the hearings was for PHL Local Gaming, LLC. Approximately half the room was filled with supporters, many of them showing their support by wearing T-shirts.
The proposal, titled Casino Revolution, was a late entry led by produce magnate Joseph Procacci and local physician and businessman Walter Lomax. It would be located near the intersection of Front Street and Packer Avenue in South Philadelphia.
“I’m just excited, at my age, to have another challenge to succeed at,” Lomax, who is 80 years old, said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian after the hearings.
John O’Riordan, the general counsel and vice president for community relations for the proposal, noted that the proposed location has “ease of access” and two experienced city businessmen in Procacci and Lomax.
“If there’s anyone who knows what Philadelphia is and what it will become, it’s these guys,” O’Riordan said.
Also testifying was Kiki Bolender, chair of the Design Advocacy Group, which independently judges design quality. Her organization handed out a letter grade to each of the casinos based on their current design.
Market8, proposed for Center City at 8th and Market streets, was the only one to get an A, with The Provence second with a B. All three proposals in South Philadelphia, including Casino Revolution, received C’s.
The riverfront resort and casino proposal from Las Vegas casino magnate and 1963 College graduate Steve Wynn received the lowest grade with a D.
Wynn’s proposal received some good news earlier this week, however — the current design received neighborhood support by passing a vote from the Fishtown Neighbors Association, 173 to 55.
Not present at the public input hearing was any strong opposition to a casino being built. Groups such as Casino Free Philadelphia opted not to speak at Thursday’s hearing.
There are currently six proposals vying for the second city casino license, which allows for up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games. Three are in South Philadelphia, while two are in a more urban area downtown and Wynn’s proposal lies in the northeast portion of the city on the Delaware River.
The first casino in city limits, SugarHouse Casino, opened in 2010. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the casino has filed a revised plan for expansion and that there would most likely be public input hearings over that issue in May.Comments powered by Disqus
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