Gaming Board details its decision to revoke Foxwoods Casino license

Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners lost its casino license because an “immeasurable void of unfulfilled promises and commitments” led to an end of the board’s patience, Chairman Gregory Fajt wrote for the majority in the written adjudication released Wednesday afternoon.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked the license through summary judgment on December 16, approving a motion filed by their enforcement arm, the Office of Enforcement Counsel. The board majority determined that while the state’s other casinos are operating, the one until recently called Foxwoods has “failed to break ground; violated Board orders; and failed to maintain financial suitability.”

Fajt wrote: “In summary, PEDP’s repeated violations of orders of the board and its inability to commence operations in a timely manner are inexcusable and not indicative of an entity deserving of the continued privilege to conduct gaming in the Commonwealth.”

The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner James Ginty.  It was primarily the jobs that a casino would bring to Philadelphia that made Ginty vote against the rest of the board, he wrote in his dissenting opinion,  released as part of the 54-page document.

“While I share the frustration of my colleagues on the length of time it is taking for a second casino in Philadelphia to come to fruition and their concern with the inability of PEDP to comply with the reasonable requirements of the Board, of greater concern to me is the potential for job and revenue loss for the Philadelphia region,” he wrote. “Ultimately, I believe that the licensee  has demonstrated sufficient progress to support their contentions that the project will be accomplished and, because of that, I respectfully dissent.”

Ginty repeated concerns he expressed at the December board meeting. “Of greater concern to me is that if the legislature opens this license up to the rest of the state, these jobs and revenue may be lost to the City permanently.”

Tomorrow, the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on a bill that would indeed open up bidding to the rest of the state, and auction the license off to the highest bidder. Read House Bill 65 here.

Meanwhile, PEDP has filed a notice of appeal in Commonwealth Court.

Gaming Board Spokesman Doug Harbach said no one from the board would comment on the adjudication because of the pending litigation.

PEDP attorney Fred Jacoby said he would not be commenting Wednesday evening because he has just received the adjudication himself, and has not had time to review it.

The adjudication provides a detailed look back at the past four years since the license was awarded, including the days when PEDP was considering moving from South Philadelphia to the former Strawbridge & Clothier building at the urging of city officials, the ill-fated partnering with Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, and the more recent joining of forces with Caesar’s, which until recently was called Harrahs.

Fajt gives a laundry list of the demands the board made of PEDP and the requests for more time PEDP made of the board – most of which the board granted.
In April 2010, PEDP and the OEC came to the board with a joint petition which would have granted PEDP 180 more days to supply the board with financial agreements, drawings and site plans, but also would have required the casino partners to surrender their license voluntarily at the end of the six-month period. In other words, the court appeal that is happening now could not have happened.

The board rejected that agreement, and immediately after the vote, the Office of Enforcement Counsel filed its petition to revoke the license.

At the time, Chief Enforcement Counsel Cyrus Pitre said the revocation process could take a year or more.

He also said it could take even longer for the board to establish a procedure to re-award the license, screen potential applicants and choose one, and for the new licensee to open a casino. It could be four years or more, he said.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com.

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