Inquirer Editorial: Leaving Las Vegas

Inquirer Editorial: Leaving Las Vegas

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is being touted as the latest savior for the foundering Foxwoods casino. But Wynn’s vision for the Foxwoods site is further confirmation that casino gambling in Philadelphia will be a down-market industry, preying mostly on the poor and elderly who can least afford it.

Wynn is scheduled to appear before the state Gaming Control Board tomorrow to outline his plans to build and operate Foxwoods. Gamblers expecting a casino remotely like the $1.6 billion Bellagio resort that Wynn built in Las Vegas will be sorely disappointed.

Wynn’s plan calls for a low-budget casino more fitting to its lousy waterfront location in South Philadelphia, not far from a Wal-Mart.

Gone are the original plans for a hotel that could at least attract gamblers from out of town to help bolster the city’s tourist trade. Instead, the latest Foxwoods incarnation will just be acres of slot machines and scores of table games aimed at the locals living paycheck to paycheck or on fixed incomes.

Wynn made some goofy comments last week about building a “dandy” casino for all the area Italians, Jews, and other ethnic groups that like to play craps and gamble. For good measure, Wynn he said he plans to include a Vietnamese restaurant for Asians who live in the area. Nothing like a politically correct casino.

The place sounds so cheesy it’s not even clear that Wynn will put his full name on the joint. Instead, he is considering putting just his initials on the casino.

But first Wynn needs the state gaming board to allow him to take over the project. Knowing the gaming board, that’s likely just a formality.

The Foxwoods casino has been beset with problems from the start. The troubles stem mainly from the poor location on the Delaware River.

Neighborhood opposition delayed construction. Mayor Nutter initially opposed the location, but his position has flip-flopped. Nutter is now on board and eager to tap the gaming tax revenues.

To placate neighbors, Foxwoods in 2008 proposed to move to the Gallery mall on Market Street, another problem site. But the gaming board sent Foxwoods back to South Philadelphia.

In the meantime, the faltering economy hit the Indian tribe that operates the flagship Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. If Wynn takes over, the tribe would remain as an investor.

More important, the local investors – which include businessman Lewis Katz, developer Ron Rubin, and Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider – who have contributed handsomely to Gov. Rendell over the years will finally get their jackpot. And isn’t that what legalized gambling in Pennsylvania is really all about?

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