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Foxwoods honcho – and casino opponents – descend on Harrisburg

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Pennsylvania’s gambling regulators gave Foxwoods Casino more time to submit new plans for their delayed South Philadelphia slots parlor. Billionaire casino developer Steve Wynn traveled to Harrisburg to pitch the state Gaming Control Board on his plan to take over the stalled project.

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Steve Wynn walked into the downtown Harrisburg office building cheered by a gauntlet of union members who waved supportive signs and life-sized headshots of the man who built luxury casino resorts in both Las Vegas and Macau. The out of work electricians had one word for their support of the stalled South Philadelphia casino: “jobs.”

Both the recession and community opposition have delayed construction of the slots parlor. Foxwoods missed several state-imposed deadlines and continues to face the threat of having their license revoked by the gaming board. Foxwoods investors have been negotiating with Wynn for months to bail them out.

But Wynn got a vastly different reception when he sat down to give his testimony. Dressed in a purplish blazer and pink tie, Wynn began this way.

Wynn: First time I’ve ever been to Harrisburg, stunning Capitol you have here, reminds me of the Parthenon.

But anti-casino activists interrupted Wynn.

Protestor: [cheers], ….overruled, I speak for the public, I am a citizen, I am a tax paying citizen….

Comittee Member: folks let me say it again, those of you who speak out will be escorted out of the room and will be charged.

One by one, protestors continued to interrupt, got kicked out and Wynn elaborated on his plans.

Wynn: The entire façade and the sides of the building will be enclosed in a continuous skin  that we designed, and its done with canope’s and white marble. Chocolate brown canope’s that are encased in brass rims

Wynn told board members he has plenty of money and backing by banks to fund the project. He says his plan would improve the Delaware River Waterfront.

Wynn: I was there last night with my gang, we walked around. The waterfront is terribly ugly in that place, you couldn’t do any more damage to it if you set it on fire. [laughter]

Much of the neighborhood opposition comes from fears of traffic jams along Delaware Avenue in south Philadelphia. Wynn said he had a plan to widen both Tasker and Reed streets using his own property.

But that didn’t sell Mary Reinhart, who says she lives a 12-second drive from the planned casino.

Reinhart: It’s probably throwing a peanut at an elephant. I think it’s inadequate. And adding a few lanes of traffic to this site is not going to siphon off the traffic its going to spill over into all of our neighborhoods.

Although the board gave Foxwoods more time, they continued to fine the project $2,000 dollars a day. The current deadline to get a slots parlor up and running at the site is May 2011, but Wynn says he needs more time. He told board members that he could have a much improved facility with table games by December 2012.

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