Parade of Philly casino proposals going before Pa. board

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As five groups vie for Philadelphia’s second casino license, a series of hearings is under way on the suitability of their proposals.

The developer who wants to build a gaming hall on North Broad Street, made his case Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Just before heading into the Pennsylvania Gaming Board hearing, developer Bart Blatstein described his project, The Provence, as “the best.”

“It’s got the best location. It’s the largest property. It’s the largest casino. It’s the largest on the amenities,” he gushed. “It just beats everybody in every category.”

Blatstein would like to open The Provence Resort & Casino in the former Philadelphia Inquirer building. He said he hopes the board will agree that his project is special and “how much of a game changer it is for Pennsylvania.”

It would be “the first truly integrated entertainment resort located in a major urban city,” he said.

Society Hill neighborhood resident Paul Boni was not impressed. In fact, he said he hopes the gaming board declines to issue the casino license to anyone.

“These facilities are designed to be close to neighborhoods, close to dense population centers, open 24/7 with free booze and easy credit,” he said. “All these things designed to keep you at the slot machine for the longest possible period.”

As the lawyer for the “Casino Free Philadelphia” group, Boni has witnessed the city’s past rumbles over gaming halls first-hand.

“The problems with state-sponsored predatory gambling are with us in the form of SugarHouse Casino and they would be with us every more with a second casino in Philadelphia,” he said.

The CEO of city nonprofit promoting independent living for those with disabilities also is concerned.

“As a large nonprofit provider of human services and independent living for people with disabilities, we’re very fearful of predatory gambling and the marketing tactics that are used by casinos,” said Thomas Earle of Liberty Resources Inc.

Earle said 90 percent of the people his organization works with are low income — the same group, he said, targeted by casinos.

Another group worried about the second casino opening in the city is Philadelphia’s only existing gaming hall, SugarHouse in Fishtown. The board is expected to hear from SugarHouse representatives later this week about how a second casino would impact business.

In addition to the site on North Broad Street, proposed casino locations include South Philadelphia and Center City.

After the presentations this week, the board’s work will continue, said spokesman Doug Harbach.

“The board will go through this week, hear presentations from all five, ask their questions to each of the applicants and then soon there after we’ll ho to be in a position to award this license in Philly.”

In addition to the site on North Broad Street, the proposed casino locations include South Philadelphia, Fishtown and Center City.

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