Pittsburgh casino work suspended, but officials remain optimistic

Construction of the planned Pittsburgh slots casino has been suspended for about two weeks until a contractor is paid the USD 10 million he is owed, a spokesman for the casino developer said.

But Bob Oltmanns, spokesman for Majestic Star Casino developer Don Barden, said Tuesday that USD 120 million in funding for the casino has been secured from Walton Street Capital LLC. That will help pay the contractor and subcontractors working on the North Shore facility, he said.

Asked whether two weeks was an accurate time line for the work stoppage, Oltmanns said, „that’s what we’re anticipating. We are optimistic we can complete all the closings on the financing in the next week or two.“

He said Barden’s plan to open the casino by May 2009 remains on track.

Local officials said they are optimistic Barden will complete his Majestic Star Casino on time.

„I have spoken to Don Barden and he has assured me that he is on track for a casino opening in May 2009. We all anticipate that Mr. Barden will stand by his commitments to Pittsburgh,“ Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a statement.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato echoed that statement.

Walton Street Capital is a real estate private equity firm that is also an investor in the proposed SugarHouse casino on Philadelphia’s waterfront. The founder of Walton Street is Neil Bluhm, who was a principal of Urban Retail Properties when that company was involved in a Fifth and Forbes redevelopment plan under former Mayor Tom Murphy.

Walton Street’s investment replaces a USD 150 million bridge loan from Apollo Global Management that was never finalized, Oltmanns said.

Oltmanns said PITG Gaming, the holding company for Barden’s Pittsburgh casino, was unable to come to terms with Apollo.

„They’re no longer involved,“ he said.

Oltmanns said Barden met with Dan Keating, owner of Keating Building Corp., the general contractor on the casino, and that Keating then met with 20 to 25 subcontractors.

Keating did not immediately return a call for comment.