UPDATED: Foxwoods license plans snagged

June 19

By Kellie Patrick Gates

for PlanPhilly

The Gaming Control Board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement says Foxwoods Casino has failed to prove it made “Herculean” efforts to open by the time its license expired, or that the City was responsible for any delays.

The Bureau also says in the response to Foxwoods’ petition for a license extension that while the casino has told the Board it intends to also ask for a relocation of that license – from the South Philadelphia waterfront to the former Strawbridge & Clothier site on Market Street – the casino developers have yet to show the state any specific plans for the new site, or prove why a casino there would open faster or be more successful than a casino at the original waterfront location.

Because of these and other reasons listed in the June 11 filing, the Bureau says the Gaming Control Board should not extend the license or grant a change in locale without a “full evidentiary hearing” before the board. No hearing has been scheduled.

The Bureau had also filed a response to SugarHouse Casino’s license extension request, saying it should not be granted without a hearing. A hearing was held, and the extension was granted.

“Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia intends to fully respond to the board’s questions and concerns,” said spokeswoman Maureen Garrity. “We believe we have strong grounds to be granted an extension, we respect the Gaming Control Board’s process and look forward to presenting our case to the Board.”

Foxwoods’ current petition only asks for a license extension at the South Philadelphia site. Casino officials have said they were holding on to that option until they had assurance the City would grant necessary approvals to build at the Strawbridge location. That assurance came recently, when City Council changed the zoning of the Strawbridge parcel to Commercial Entertainment District status – the only classification that allows for gaming. Foxwoods’ Garrity said after that decision that the casino would now petition for the location change, but no time frame for doing so was set.

Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania casino partnership – Keystone Redevelopment Partners – has also petitioned the Gaming Control Board to intervene in the Foxwoods case. Trump’s group applied for a Philadelphia license, but was rejected.  In January, Trump and company filed a petition to reopen, suggesting that the Board consider Foxwoods to have “abandoned or forfeited its license” and award that license to Keystone instead.

In the document Keystone filed earlier this month asking to intervene in Foxwoods’ petition for a license extension, Keystone Redevelopment Partners states that Foxwoods “was aware of the many problems and potential issues associated with its riverfront location” when it applied for the license, so these are not good reasons to grant an extension. The Keystone motion also refers to Foxwoods’ stated intent to ask that its license be relocated to the Strawbridge & Clothier site. The board chose a casino location when it awarded the license, Keystone says, so if that location doesn’t work, the board should reconsider its decision to award the license.

Paul Boni, attorney for Casino-Free Philadelphia, said his anti-casino group doesn’t want a Trump casino, either. “If Trump gets the license, we’ll fight that, too,” Boni said.  “No neighborhood, including the area surrounding TrumpStreet, is appropriate for a predatory slots parlor.”  TrumpStreet was proposed for Fox Street and Roberts Avenue in Nicetown, a location commonly called the Budd Site.

In its document, the Bureau outlines a list of things that it says Foxwoods should have to prove or provide before the Board grants a license extension or a change of venue.

These include:

– “Documentation that the petitioner continues to possess all necessary funding or guarantees of funding necessary for the construction of its project.”
– Proof of the applications for all governmental permit applications and approvals necessary to begin construction, and documentations of all permits and approvals that have been granted.
– Plans and details for a Market East facility.
– An updated estimate for starting and finishing construction at Delaware Ave. and Reed Street or any other potential location.
– A complete list of all “actual and perceived” obstacles which could prevent Foxwoods from starting or finishing its project, and a proposed list of solutions.

Another development in the Foxwoods case: A group of local state legislators has asked to intervene, saying they have that right because the proposed Delaware Avenue site includes land that is held in the public trust on behalf of their constituents. The reference is to state-owned, riparian land. Foxwoods has long maintained that its plans for the original waterfront site do not include riparian land.

The legislators, Sens. Lawrence Farnese, Jr. and Michael Stack and Reps. Michael McGeehan, Michael O’Brien, John Taylor and Babette Josephs, say in their filing that the state should deny the license extension request at the waterfront site. They say that the current lack of progress at the site shows that Foxwoods could not have a slots facility open by the time a granted extension would expire, and that city officials and the administration have made it clear that they do not support the waterfront site.

Foxwoods has asked the Gaming Control Board to give them more time to respond to the legislators’ petition, saying, among other things, that their attorneys have been busy with other matters.

State legislators’ request to intervene in the SugarHouse case was denied.

Contact the reporter at kelliespatrick@gmail.com

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