Inquirer: How Foxwoods got a leg up

Inquirer: How Foxwoods got a leg up

Autumn was make-or-break time for the Foxwoods Casino in Philadelphia.

Opposition in neighborhoods and City Hall had stalled the project. Lenders had grown wary as casinos elsewhere struggled. State regulators set a final deadline: Foxwoods had to open by May 2011, or lose its license.

Foxwoods needed help in Harrisburg.

So its lawyer and lobbyist, Stephen A. Cozen, turned to an old friend whose campaigns he had generously supported: Gov. Rendell.

Then Cozen called on legislative leaders – Democrats Todd Eachus and Dwight Evans in the House, Republican Dominic Pileggi in the Senate. It was as if someone had drawn Cozen a map. Indeed, someone had.

“I advised him to talk to everyone in leadership, on both sides of the aisle,” Rendell remembered.

By December, a 42-word sentence appeared on Page 55 of the 230-page bill to legalize poker and other table games at Pennsylvania casinos.

It said the state Gaming Control Board could extend a casino’s license for “36 months . . . or December 31, 2012.”

Those words spelled hope for Foxwoods’ future.

Who put them in the bill?

The answer isn’t simple or clear. It’s behind the scenes, in the tortuous, often murky process of building a major piece of legislation – the “melting pot of ideas,” as a Senate aide said.

But the idea of giving Foxwoods more time did not rise from the grass roots; it drifted down from the top. Casino foes learned of it too late to get it undone.

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