Rendell gets homework from casino activists

Feb. 27

Armed with calculators, magnifying glasses and consultant reports, members of Casino-Free Philadelphia kicked off a six-week campaign that challenges Gov. Rendell to identify, cost out, and debate the worth of what they call the “hidden human and economic costs” that will accompany the creation of the two proposed slots operations on the Delaware Riverfront.

A dozen members of the organization held a brief press conference outside the Governor’s Southeastern Pennsylvania offices Wednesday morning before meeting with Joe Certaine, the former Philadelphia Managing Director who now runs that office. Certaine, who has met previously with the organization, said he would forward the “homework” to the governor. Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo told PlanPhilly the governor would look over the documents.

“Gambling will bring hidden costs to Philadelphia, including the cost of added police, social service agencies to assist addicts and prosecuting the rise of crime,” Casino-Free stated in the directive to Rendell titled “Operation Hidden Costs.”

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Casino-Free argues that Rendell never calculated or took these costs into account before endorsing gaming here. As an example, the group cites a report by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority issued over the summer of 2007 that said the cost of casino-related law enforcement might be as high as $200 million per year.

“The answer is the same, before I even see the document,” said Rendell spokeman Ardo. “The vast majority of people will play slots responsibly and the state will take into account that some people will have problems and the state will budget for that.”

Casino-Free’s Daniel Hunter contends the state has shown zero ability to manage casino gambling accurately or with integrity. “While saying he’s got our best intentions, the Governor has put only $1.5 million statewide into addiction issues — the city’s own pro-casino forces note that Philadelphia alone needs twice that.” Hunter said. “That’s just one hidden cost the Governor can’t seem to calculate accurately.”

Ardo also doesn’t understand the group’s logic about cost outweighing benefits.

“Remember that these facilities are going to account for significant revenue coming in at a local municipal level,” he said. “And that source of income is at risk.”

For their part, Foxwoods Casino would welcome any economic scrutiny the Governor might decide to give, said spokesman Tim Spreitzer. “We believe that any reasonable examination of the hundreds of millions of dollars in wage tax relief that will be provided, the millions of dollars in new revenue for the city and the school district that will be generated, and the thousands of jobs that will be created by these projects will demonstrate significant benefits to Philadelphia.”

Contact the reporter at mgolas@design.upenn.edu

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