SugarHouse delay stirs political pot

A bevy of Philadelphia state legislators have asked the state’s gaming regulatory body to revoke SugarHouse Casino’s gambling license, according to an Inquirer brief on Dec. 30. The reason they cite is that time has officially run out for the Fishtown casino’s developers to start building.

State Rep. Michael O’Brien, whose district includes the SugarHouse property, and Larry Farnese, the incoming state senator for the First District which also includes SugarHouse, “objected to SugarHouse’s request for a one-year extension on its license, issued Jan. 10, 2008.” The Inquirer reported that they were joined by State Sen. Michael Stack and Reps. Bill Keller, John Taylor and Mike McGeehan.

“The legislators argue that SugarHouse should forfeit its license for failing to build even a temporary location within a year of getting its license, as required by state law. The issue is likely to come before the Gaming Control Board for a hearing.”

(http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/36869614.html)

Soon after, Casino-Free Philadelphia weighed in on the matter with the Gaming Control Board. (http://www.planphilly.com/node/5827) Among other complaints, the group questions the SugarHouse owners’ financial ability to construct its project, which in 2006 was estimated to cost $550 million for Phase I its project.

That estimate would be considerably higher if issued today, city development experts say. More importantly, SugarHouse’s ability to get proper loans – mezzanine, construction, permanent, what-have-you – is just like every other development around the country right now: In limbo, as billions in bailout money oozes its way into the gears of a national economy that no longer has any investment banks. Even loans agreed-upon in writing for blue-chip properties, in Manhattan or Las Vegas, for example, have been pulled. Some projects have even been stalled mid-construction, if not outright cancelled.

SugarHouse has been barred from building its Delaware waterfront site by City Council and the Nutter administration, which wants the slots parlor to be located elsewhere. The developers are also still waiting for approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Posted by Thomas J. Walsh

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