Pa. Commonwealth Court upholds Gaming Control Board's revocation of casino license

Jon Campisi Nov. 14, 2011, 9:09am

A state appellate court has upheld a decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to revoke the casino license of a company that sought to erect a slots parlor along an industrial stretch of Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia.

Commonwealth Court ruled 6-1 Nov. 10 that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was correct in its decision late last year to revoke the casino license that had earlier been awarded to Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, L.P.

The group, consisting of investors and developers from Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, sought to build the Foxwoods Casino on a parcel of land abutting the Delaware River.

The casino, one of two initially planned for Philadelphia – the other, SugarHouse Casino, opened in September 2010 on Delaware Avenue in the city’s Fishtown section – had been fraught with financial problems.

When it became clear the project might night be financially viable, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked the development group’s license for a Category 2 slots facility on Dec. 23, 2010. The group had appealed the state agency’s ruling to Commonwealth Court.

In an opinion speaking for the majority of the bench, Commonwealth Court Judge Johnny J. Butler wrote that the gaming board was right to revoke the license.

“Revocation was not an excessive sanction under [the] circumstances,” Butler wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote that she believed the gaming board had the authority to revoke the license because the development group failed to meet certain conditions of the licensing process, namely that it failed to submit architectural renderings, conceptual proposals, engineering opinions and other required information under board-imposed deadlines.

“PEDP’s failure to meet these conditions is a fact not in dispute,” Leavitt wrote.

The beleaguered Foxwoods Casino project has had its share of problems. It was originally supposed to be operated by a casino group out of Connecticut, but that deal eventually fell through.

Then, Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn entered the picture, only to drop out in the spring of 2010.

Meanwhile, neighborhood activists who oppose gambling halls in the city continue with their fight against the placement of any additional casinos in Philadelphia.

In a Nov. 11 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a leading figure in the anti-casino movement hailed the court’s decision, but vowed to keep on fighting if the appellate decision is overturned by a higher court down the road.

(The development group still can appeal the latest ruling to the state’s Supreme Court).

Paul Boni, a Philadelphia lawyer and board member of Stop Predatory Gambling, also said his group would fight against another possible casino being built in Foxwood’s place within the city.

“If the license is rebid, that means every neighborhood in Philadelphia is now at risk of hosting a predatory casino,” Boni told the Inquirer. “In the event the license is reissued for the same or even a new location, responsible neighborhoods will continue to fight back.”

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