Boon or bane? Philly residents split on prospect of second casino

Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said that Philadelphia could keep the license allowing a second casino to be built within city limits. Now, neighborhoods across the city are left to grapple with the possibility of legalized betting coming to their block.

The stretch of Callowhill Street between Broad and 20th is at a crossroads. The newly completed Barnes Foundation is on one end, the recently vacated Inquirer/Daily News building on the other.

If real estate mogul Bart Blatstein has his way, a large swath of the corridor, including the Inquirer building, will become a hotel and casino complex. Although he hasn’t secured the license, the gaming commission’s decision to keep it within city limits certainly helps his chances.

Reaction among nearby residents to this news was evenly mixed.

To Abigail Bruley, the possibility of a casino in the neighborhood brings one word to mind: “Seedy.”

But Gina Brockway thinks gambling will boost the area by attracting people with money to her neighborhood.

“This area is up and coming, and this is going to be the new Rittenhouse Square times three. It’s going to be nice around here,” said Brockway, looking toward the potential casino location. “I’m psyched for it.”

Even though Dave Goldenberg isn’t thrilled about the prospect of gambling, to him it comes down to one thing. “Tax dollars, revenue for the city,” he says.

Other developers interested in license

Blatstein isn’t going to be the only one competing for the license. A New York City-based firm headed by R. Donahue Peebles is looking into Old City, the waterfront and Northern Liberties as possible proposal sites. Parkway Corp. president Robert Zuritsky has also expressed interest, but hasn’t disclosed a potential location.

To those who fought against the construction of the city’s first casino, SugarHouse on Delaware Avenue, the prospect of more slots and tables in the neighborhood sounds like a rerun of a nightmare.

“Northern Liberties needs a second casino like a hole in the head,” said Matt Ruben, president of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.

“I don’t think it’s fair or proper for any part of the city to ever be considered something like a casino district,” eh said. “I think that could have negative effects far greater than the sum of its parts.”

For better or for worse, for now, neighborhoods will just have to wait.

The state gaming board will continue to accept applications for the remaining casino license until mid November.

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