Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120



_____________________NEWS RELEASE

State Senator

1st Senatorial District
Room 545 Main Capitol, Harrisburg PA 17120
Internet Website:


PHONE: 717-787-5662 
PHONE: 215-503-3245


     HARRISBURG, December 26, 2007 – State Senator Vince Fumo, state Representative Mike O’Brien (both D-Philadelphia) and other state legislators from Philadelphia filed an appeal in the State Supreme Court today, challenging the city’s grant of riparian rights to the proposed Sugarhouse Casino.

     The group of seven lawmakers, who represent all of the House and Senate Districts along the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia, contend that the submerged lands beyond the river’s waterline that are part of the casino’s development plan belong to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania taxpayers. The city has no legal authority to turn them over to a private party.

     Fumo and O’Brien, whose districts contain the development site, were joined as petitioners by Democratic Senator Mike Stack, Democratic House members William Keller, Michael McGeehan and Robert Donatucci, and Republican House member John Taylor.

     “The state owns that land. Historically and legally, it has been the sole prerogative of the state General Assembly to lease, sell or otherwise authorize the use of riparian land,” Fumo said. “This is not about casinos as much as it is about the city trying to usurp state authority. The city’s decision, if allowed to stand, would deprive commonwealth taxpayers of money that is rightfully theirs, and would deprive the General Assembly of its right to set terms and conditions for use of its waterfront property.”

     O’Brien said the city’s action would create a terrible precedent for all types of future riverfront development in the city.

     “This is a clear affront to the General Assembly. That is one reason we have a united front in submitting this appeal by all Senate and House members from both political parties whose districts abut the river,” O’Brien said. “This is beyond just a casino issue. It goes to the question of the state’s legal control of its own land, land which is held in trust on behalf of the public.”

     Relying on a 1907 state law that has since been superceded by other state statutes, HSP Gaming announced in October that it was seeking city authorization to build on the 12 acres of submerged land that make up slightly more than half of its proposed Sugarhouse development location.

     Fumo and O’Brien both testified at a City Commerce Department hearing on November 15, arguing against the move. Fumo stated as part of his testimony that city approval of a riparian rights would further delay the project because it would instigate additional litigation. Nonetheless, the City Commerce Department authorized Sugarhouse’s use of the submerged lands on November 27.

     The Philadelphia waterfront state legislators said they would ask incoming mayor Michael Nutter to revisit the issue after he takes office next month.

     As Fumo pointed out at the November 15 hearing, the appeal submitted to the Supreme Court today argues that the state and not the city possesses sole and exclusive authority to authorize use of riparian lands, and that under a 1978 state law, such use cannot be granted without the “specific authority from the General Assembly.” City licensing authority under the 1907 law applies only to docks, wharfs and other similar harbor structures, which plainly does not include casinos.

     The city has no right under law to convey title, easement, right of way or any other interest in the property to HSP.

     The legislators stressed that while the project in question is a casino, the larger issue is the public’s interest in controlling the riverfront. Were the city’s decision left uncontested, any developer who was unsuccessful in obtaining legislative authority or who was displeased with the terms and conditions imposed by the state, could petition the city for a more favorable deal.

     The appeal states: “The consequences of such an outcome would be to invite developers along the Delaware River to obtain an interest in state lands in a manner not supported or otherwise authorized by the General Assembly, thus depriving the Commonwealth of any revenue in exchange for the encroachment, development and occupation of state lands.

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To read the full petition submitted to the court, click here.