By Kellie Patrick Gates
Officials from Foxwoods and the city are playing a high-stakes game of casino location chicken.
Mayor Michael Nutter and City Councilman Frank DiCicco are unhappy that Foxwoods has not yet asked the state Gaming Control Board to transfer its operating license from its originally planned South Philadelphia waterfront site to The Gallery at Market East.
But Foxwoods says it won’t give up a license for the plot at Delaware and Reed without City Planning Commission approval of its plan of development for The Gallery – a set of documents that does not yet exist.
“At this point, we’re still preserving our options – our right to build on the waterfront,” Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity said.
Nutter said Friday that the city has done its part to show Foxwoods it is seriously considering a Gallery location.
The mayor said one, big, good-faith gesture came in November when DiCicco introduced legislation that creates a Commercial Entertainment District at The Gallery, pending approval of a casino plan. This is the only zoning designation the city has that allows a casino to operate.
Anti-casino activists and others who aren’t convinced The Gallery is the right location urged DiCicco and the rest of council to hold off on the new zoning. Both DiCicco and the mayor said at the time that the zoning was needed as a gesture of good intentions.
Since then, the city has appointed a team of consultants to help explore the future of the Market East corridor, including work that examines what would happen to the area if a casino is part of it.
“They wanted to move forward,” Nutter said. “We’ve done a great deal of work. We need them to go to the Gaming Board.”
DiCicco pointed out that Foxwoods’ license for the waterfront is about to expire, and they are also nearing a deadline to at least have a temporary facility up and running. SugarHouse, whose license has already expired, has asked the GCB for an extension. DiCicco said he had hoped that Foxwoods would have done the same by now, and that they would have asked for a license relocation at the same time.
DiCicco said he will be placated if Foxwoods asks for a license transfer whenever it asks for an extension – and he will be extremely aggravated if they ask for an extension at the Delaware Avenue site.
He may need to prepare for that aggravation.
Garrity said that Foxwoods still has not reached a lease agreement with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Trust – the entity that holds long-term leases for The Gallery’s commercial space with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the owner.
Until there are lease agreements, there can be no plans, she said. “We need to have plans together in order to go to the Gaming Control Board.”
With plans, Foxwoods may begin relocation discussions with the GCB, Garrity said. But “there will be no formal application without Planning Commission approval.”
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