As another deadline looms, Foxwoods has not identified a new partner

Foxwoods Casino officials have not taken the step that would show the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board they have locked in a new partner to help save their beleaguered South Philadelphia project.

No new partner can join the casino venture without Foxwoods petitioning the board for approval. And with the diminishing role of the financially strapped Massachusetts tribe that was once going to run Foxwoods, Philadelphia Entertainment Development Partners needs help to succeed.

“At this point, I’m not aware of anything that’s been received,” said PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach, “I would know if a petition had been filed.” Harbach was standing outside SugarHouse Casino Monday evening, where inside, gaming board employees were conducting the first of two inspections and audits that will determine whether SugarHouse opens at 1 p.m. Thursday, as expected.

The lack of a petition for a new partner does not necessarily mean that Foxwoods hasn’t reached some sort of preliminary financial understanding with a potential new investor.

When Foxwoods last appeared before the gaming control board in late July, PEDP Attorney Fred Jacoby said that he hoped to deliver a term sheet identifying a funding source to the board within a week. Jacoby has not returned requests for comment over the past several weeks. Harbach said he cannot comment on whether or not a term sheet has been turned in.

A petition to the board would indicate a high level of commitment from Foxwoods new investor. And Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board members will be looking for that positive sign, especially considering what happened with Foxwoods’ last potential savior, casino mogul Steve Wynn. Wynn and Foxwoods did provide a term sheet to the gaming board. In fact, Wynn produced drawings for a new casino design, and showed them to Philadelphia leadership as well. Then, he dropped out of the deal. Jacoby has said that unexpected development set Foxwoods back months. He also said, months ago, that Foxwoods was in talks with a new potential investor who had casino experience.

Jacoby has never said who that potential investor is or was. The Inquirer ran a story with unnamed sources saying it was Harrah’s. Foxwoods’ last appearance before the gaming board was shortly after that article appeared, and when reporters questioned Jacoby about who the new potential investor was, he sharply said that reporters should call Harrah’s, since they apparently like to talk. Harrah’s Entertainment spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said in an email today that she could not comment on Foxwoods right now because “we are in a quiet period” since an August filing made with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Foxwoods and the PGCB’s offices of Enforcement, Hearings and Appeals and Licensing have been filing a lot of documents (see attachments below) in relation to the casino’s threatened license and a necessary hearing, yet-unscheduled, at which Foxwoods will try to convince the board to let PEDP keep it.

PlanPhilly has been told that since the board has granted Foxwoods’ request for confidentiality in matters pertaining to the license fight, nothing can be released without the direct approval of hearings and appeals director Linda Lloyd. PlanPhilly’s request was passed on to Lloyd last week and she responded today, releasing the documents attached below. Other documents, however, were deemed confidential and were not released.

The discovery process which is basically both sides requests for documents and interviews by the board’s office of enforcement counsel and Foxwoods in preparation for the PGCB hearing, is now finished, Harbach said. While the hearing has not been slated, it’s time would appear to be coming reasonably soon. In August, the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement and Counsel denied PEDP’s appeal to extend the discovery timeline until Oct. 31. All pre-hearing motions must be filed by Oct. 5, and both the office of enforcement council and Foxwoods would then have ten days to respond.

Chief Enforcement Council Cyrus Pitre estimated when he first filed the petition to revoke Foxwoods’ license in April that the process could take up to a year. Foxwoods’ current deadline to get slots up and running is May 29, 2011. When Pitre told the board he thought it should yank the Foxwoods license, he said it was because they had no hope of opening by that date.

But Foxwoods could, with board approval, get more time to open – until December 2011. The casino interest has not filed a petition for that extension yet, but Jacoby has in the past indicated they would eventually do so.

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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