Politicians call for Foxwoods license revocation

Dec. 2

By Kellie Patrick Gates
For PlanPhilly

A group of state legislators is calling on Pennsylvania to revoke Foxwoods Casino’s license and award it to another interest.

The representatives and senators – republicans and democrats from the city and suburbs – held a press conference in the rain late Wednesday afternoon. They said that Foxwoods’ failure to file engineering and site drawings by Dec. 1 – a condition imposed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board earlier this year when it gave Foxwoods a two-year extension to get its casino up and running – was the final straw.

“Foxwoods is dead wood, it is time for them to be pruned,” said State Rep. Michael O’Brien of Philadelphia. Also present were state representatives Babette Josephs, John Taylor and Mike McGeehan of Philadelphia, Curt Schroder of Delaware County and Mike Vereb of Montgomery County,  and senators Lawrence Farnese and Michael Stack.

But Foxwoods says there are good and practical reasons why the site plans, engineering work, and a detailed schedule of when construction will start and finish couldn’t be finished by Dec. 1.  It outlines them in a formal request asking to have that deadline pushed back to March 1, 2010 – the same date by which they must provide a financing plan to the state.

In that request, filed on the last day of November, Foxwoods attorneys say their client is working very hard to put the financing in place in very difficult economic times. They are confident that will happen by March 1, but it hasn’t happened yet, Stephen Cozen and the other attorneys wrote. And, the lawyers say, until the money picture becomes clear, it isn’t possible to say what the casino will look like.

Foxwoods hasn’t been able to produce the detailed reports the state wants. The brief stated that because “… of necessity, the source, manner, timing and amounts of financing and funding for the development of the facility will dictate many of the details that must go into the renderings, proposals, opinions, other documents and timelines referenced (in the PGCB order) although (Foxwoods) is fully capable, if necessary and approved by the board, of constructing a temporary facility at its site if need be.”

This reasoning and the rest of the explanation outlined in Foxwoods’ request didn’t make any difference to the legislators.

“To date, Foxwoods has only submitted a letter saying they still have no plans, permits, or financing – but that they want more time to build a temporary facility,” Farnese said in a press release. “Foxwoods keeps showing up for class and claiming the dog ate my homework.”

The legislators said given the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement investigation under way in the awarding of Category 2 licenses, it is not prudent to consider any further extensions legislatively or by the PGCB.

PGCB spokesman Richard McGarvey said the Board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement must read and respond to the request before it comes before the Board for consideration.

O’Brien said a response must be made within 30 days.  He would not say whether he or his colleagues will take any further action to try to convince the board to see things their way.

“The board has a fiduciary obligation to get things up and running,” he said. “The board needs to take the license, open up a competitive, fair bidding process and reissue it,” he said.

If that happens, O’Brien said he will fight to convince all parties that the winning bid should have a different location. He and other legislators – along with city officials and many city residents – believe the Foxwoods’ site is a bad location for a casino, due to traffic issues and other concerns.

At the city’s urging, Foxwoods had chosen an alternative site – the former Strawbridge building. But the developers never formally requested a change of venue from the Gaming Control Board. And in the language of the two-year extension, the PGCB made it clear they wanted Foxwoods to stay at thei original site.

Contact the reporter at kelliespatrick@gmail.com

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal