Lawmakers target Foxwoods

A group of state lawmakers from Philadelphia have asked the state gaming board to deny Foxwoods Casino’s request for more time to provide detailed plans of development.

In August, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board granted Foxwoods two more years to get slots up and running in South Philadelphia, but the extension came with conditions. One of them was to turn over engineering studies and detailed drawings for the casino by Dec. 1.

At the end of November, Foxwoods asked the Gaming Control Board to give them more time to produce the drawings and studies, saying that they needed first to know if table games were coming to Pennsylvania and how much and what type of financing they would have in place. Foxwoods hopes the board will allow them to turn in the drawings and studies by March 1, when a financing report is also due.

But State representatives Mike O’Brien, Babette Josephs and Mike McGeehan, and senators Larry Farnese and Michael Stack, all Democrats, and Rep. John Taylor, a Republican, said in a press statement that to grant Foxwoods’ request would be to reward the casino “for its inability to do what other casinos across the state have been able to do – get their slot machines up and running according to law.”

“Foxwoods has provided no evidence that any outside force, such as community opposition, City Council or legal challenges, has hampered its ability to have slot machines ready for play at a temporary or permanent facility,” Farnese said. “It has instead cried about changes in the national credit and financial markets and its inability to bring along investors because of what the General Assembly may or may not do with table games. It’s a ridiculous argument and should be denied on its face.”

Josephs agreed: “The gaming control board has in the past accommodated licensees when the circumstances were beyond the licensee’s control, but this need for an extension is of Foxwoods’ own making,” Josephs said. “It’s unfortunate that Foxwoods is facing difficulties, but they should be held accountable, just the same as the other casinos. The sad reality is that I believe if Foxwoods had cooperated with the community from the beginning instead of coming into the neighborhood like an 800-pound gorilla, the casino probably would be in operation by now.”

The PGCB must decide by early January whether to grant Foxwoods’ request for an extension.

The engineering and site plan reports are just some that the PGCB required of Foxwoods when it granted the license extension. The casino also has to file monthly progress reports on its efforts to procure financing, permits, and other matters. Foxwoods has met these deadlines.

The first such report, which was due Oct. 1, is the subject of an on-going battle over whether the documents should be made public.

Paul Boni, who represents Casino-Free Philadelphia, and Adam Cutler, who represents the Chinatown Preservation Alliance for the Public Interest Law Center, had earlier this year filed public records requests for the reports with the Gaming Control Board. Those requests were denied, and Boni and Cutler took the fight to the Office of Open Records.

The Gaming Control Board and Foxwoods argue that the reports are not public information because they are part of an on-going, non-criminal investigation of Foxwoods that is being conducted by the Board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement. They also say that information contained in the reports is specifically categorized as confidential in the state’s gaming law.

Boni and Cutler argue that the PGCB has not demonstrated that the documents were collected as part of an investigation, nor offered any evidence that the information contained in the report qualifies as confidential under state law.

Boni and Cutler also say that even if there is some information that is confidential under state law, the state’s Right To Know Law requires the PGCB to release the documents with redactions.

Foxwoods and the PGCB filed more documents earlier this week. Read them by clicking below.

The Office of Open Records will decide whether the documents should be released by Dec.  21.

Both the PGCB and Boni and Cutler may appeal that decision to Commonwealth Court.

Posted by Kellie Patrick Gates. Contact the reporter at kelliespatrick@gmail.com
 

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