Casino planners aim to assuage claims of racism with hiring goals — but some aren’t buying it

 Ninth and Packer is the future site of Live! Hotel and Casino,  Philadelphia's second casino. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Ninth and Packer is the future site of Live! Hotel and Casino, Philadelphia's second casino. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

After defending themselves against accusations of racist practices in other cities, developers of a  casino planned for South Philadelphia are trying to subdue the protest with new hiring goals.

Community groups pushing against the developers will have a chance to speak at a Monday morning hearing, but some activists say it’s likely to be an insufficient forum.

Former customers and employees of Cordish casinos in Louisville and Kansas City have said black patrons were kicked out and banned from facilities for arbitrary reasons. That’s triggered federal racial discrimination lawsuits that critics say should be cause for concern in Philadelphia.

The plan for a $450 million Live! Hotel and Casino in the city’s stadium district is scheduled for a City Council Committee on Rules public hearing on zoning that begins at 10 a.m. Monday. But the Cordish matter is just one of 10 on the docket.

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The Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church points out that each speaker will be given just a few minutes. And what’s really needed to get to the bottom of the allegations, Tyler said, is a City Council special hearing dedicated to the subject. Even better, he said, would be a Benghazi-style hearing (the 11-hour congressional grilling Hilary Clinton received in October).

“I think, given the mood of the country, and all of the racial tension and strife, even in our city and region, that we owe it to ourselves to get it done right, not get it done fast,” Tyler said.

Tyler says Baltimore-based Cordish’s offers to make minorities 50 percent of contraction and permanent jobs don’t address the root problem.

“If the Cordish company is as good as they say they are, they put out an impressive press release today about the things they’re doing for their community, then the product will stand up on its own,” Tyler said. “They don’t have to hide from anything.”

Throughout the process, Cordish representatives have dismissed the allegations as baseless, saying the accusers have made “false and malicious” statements.

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