LEGISLATORS PROPOSE BILL TO PICK
NEW PHILADELPHIA CASINO SITES
HARRISBURG, April 30, 2008 – Three state legislators from Philadelphia will
introduce a proposal to establish a collaborative, inclusive process aimed at
finding new locations for the city’s slots gambling casinos. State Senator Vince
Fumo and state Representatives Mike O’Brien and Bill Keller (all Democrats) want
to involve state and city officials, Foxwoods and Sugarhouse casinos, community
representatives, and the state Gaming Board in an effort to identify alternative
casino locations on a strict time line.
In addition, the legislation would also allow casinos
to be situated in the area around the Philadelphia International Airport – by
removing the current prohibition on other casinos being sited within a 10-mile
radius of the Harness Racing Track slots facility in Chester.
More than two years after the Gaming Board approved
casino licenses, and with most gambling facilities open or well into
construction throughout the rest of the state, gaming is no closer to reality in
Philadelphia than it was prior to enactment of the 2004 Gaming Law. In fact, the
Gaming Board recently revised its estimate for the opening of Sugarhouse to 2010
at the earliest.
“Much of the delay stems from the legitimate concerns
and objections of neighbors and local community groups who oppose casinos being
built so close their neighborhoods, schools and churches,” said Keller, whose
House district includes the proposed Foxwoods development.
O’Brien’s House district contains the Sugarhouse
location; Fumo’s Senate district holds both.
“We are trying to end the standoff that has created
anxiety in communities, rising costs for casino investors, and delayed gambling
revenue benefits for city and state taxpayers,” O’Brien said. “It is fair to
neither casino investors nor city residents to allow this to drag on. We are
prepared to continue this fight for years if need be to protect our
constituents, but I think this represents our best chance to end the fight.”
Fumo committed himself to working in Harrisburg with
Governor Ed Rendell and the rest of the General Assembly to identify financial
resources to offset the cost of relocating the casinos.
“This is not meant to be punitive to the developers. It
is an effort to resolve a stalemate. We are committed to casino gambling in
Philadelphia, but it must be done in a manner that respects the needs and
concerns of the city and community, not in a way that tramples on their rights,”
Fumo noted that the state Gaming Board did not pick the
two waterfront locations, per se, as the best sites in the city for gambling.
Rather, developers included the sites as part of their overall proposals, but
the Gaming Board took into account many other factors, such as the relative
financial stability of the investors, marketing plans, architectural design,
minority hiring plans, and more as it sorted through the five Philadelphia
By re-involving the Gaming Board and the now-successful
casino applicants in a new process to determine location, the legislators said
they hoped to reach a consensus on the two best places in the city for gambling.
"This would be an open process that would also give the public and city
officials a voice in the decision," Fumo said.
Under the legislation, the Gaming Board would hold
hearings, taking input from the licensees, neighborhood civic associations, and
city and state officials. Within 120 days after commencing the relocation
proceedings, the Board would issue an alternative licensed facility report,
addressing such matters as the public policy concerns at the existing licensed
locations, an account of the delays to date and the likelihood of future delays,
and a comprehensive list of alternative locations within Philadelphia, along
with an account of the advantages and public policy benefits of those locations.
Within 30 days of the issuance of that report, the two casino licensees would
submit a response to the Board’s report, addressing the feasibility of
relocating to one of the alternative sites.
Thirty days after that, the Board would issue a final
order either approving relocation, imposing additional conditions requiring the
relocation, or revoking the licenses and reopening the application process for
the two Philadelphia casinos.
Identically worded versions of the legislation will be
introduced by O’Brien and Keller in the House and by Fumo in the Senate.
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Click here to view a draft of the legislation