Two Philadelphia casinos delayed

Two large casinos planned for Philadelphia have to face lawsuits, zoning fights, angry residents and battling politicians which have kept any work from beginning on the USD 986 million Foxwoods casino and the USD 550 million SugarHouse casino, planned for sites several miles apart along the Delaware River waterfront.

The longer it takes for those two Philadelphia casinos, with several thousand slot machines each, to open for business, the longer it will take for the full amount of property tax relief – USD 1 billion or more, Governor Ed Rendell says – to be generated statewide. This year, the tax relief total stands at USD 613 million for home and farm owners.

Last week, three Democratic legislators from Philadelphia took a step that could delay the casinos even longer. State Senator Vincent Fumo and Reps. Mike O’Brien and Bill Keller are trying to set up „a collaborative, inclusive process aimed at finding new locations for the city’s slots gambling casinos.“ In a statement, they noted that gambling parlors in other parts of the state are „open or well into construction.“

But in Philadelphia, „gaming is no closer to reality than it was prior to enactment of the 2004 gaming law,“ they said, noting that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently revised its forecast for when the casinos would open – not before 2010 or maybe even 2011. No construction has occurred even though the gaming board awarded the two slots licenses back in December 2006.

SugarHouse is to be built at a former Jack Frost sugar refinery along the Delaware River, north of the downtown area, and Foxwoods is also to go along the river, about three miles away from SugarHouse, south of downtown. The Foxwoods developer also owns a giant Indian tribe casino in Connecticut.

Residents have vociferously complained they were left out of the siting process. They maintain that the casino locations chosen by the developers are too close to houses, schools and places of worship. City officials and state legislators are under severe pressure to placate the critics and find different locations.