South Philly neighbors rally against casino in their backyard

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expected to approve a second Philadelphia casino at a meeting next week.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expected to approve a second Philadelphia casino at a meeting next week. An unconfirmed report suggests that the next location will be down near the stadium complex, and that leaves many South Philadelphia neighbors unhappy.

Among their concerns: parking hassles, crime, drunken troublemakers and sinking property values. Altogether, at least 300 residents came out to a community meeting Wednesday night to share their concerns. Leading the opposition to the project was Barbara Capozzi, a real estate agent and board member of the Sports Complex Special Services District.

“NIMBY, not in our backyard, is our best argument,” Capozzi said. “There’s no place in the city that has more in their backyard than we do … the neighborhood I’m talking about goes ten, fifteen blocks from the stadium complex, and we already have more problems than we can handle.”

Capozzi called on neighbors to fight back while there’s still time, drawing loud cheers. But also on hand were dozens of union workers, along with John Dougherty, the influential head of electricians’ union Local 98. Dougherty said the project would create at least 1,000 construction jobs, and urged the residents to think of their neighbors.

“People who don’t like gaming don’t like gaming,” he said. “I like building buildings. I like maintaining buildings. I like employing kids at decent wages with great benefits. And I’m the largest single employer in this neighborhood.”

Dougherty, better known as Johnny Doc, drew boos when he told the crowd that community groups such as the Special Services District should have filed a formal grievance a long time ago, and that their current opposition might be “too little too late.”

But no matter where in Philadelphia a new casino gets built, union workers will get the construction jobs. A formal vote by the Gaming Control board is scheduled for next Tuesday at a hearing in the city.

There is a second proposed casino site in South Philly as well as one at 8th and Market streets and one in the old Philadelphia Inquirer building on North Broad Street.

The city’s existing casino, Sugarhouse as well as Harrah’s in Chester have loudly lobbied against granting a second license, saying the gambling market is saturated in the region.

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