Those seeking Philadelphia’s remaining casino license face city deadline Thursday

Anyone who wants a shot at the second Philadelphia casino license must let the city know by the close of business Thursday – a week before the Nov. 15 deadline for submissions to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

As of Wednesday, no one has filed a Local Impact Report with the city, said Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger. The PGCB hadn’t received any yet, either, said spokesman Richard McGarvey.

Greenberger said he’s not anticipating any notices will arrive until right before the deadline.  But he is expecting three or four applications, and possibly five.

Developer Bart Blatstein has already made public his elaborate plans for a casino and much more at and around the former Philadelphia Inquirer building on Broad Street.

The Inquirer reported last week that a partnership between the owners of Parx Casino in Bensalem and Maryland Live! Casino complex in Hanover, Md., hopes to open a casino at the site of the sports complex Holiday Inn in South Philadelphia.

Greenberger said the city will make an announcement about the notices it receives, but likely not until Friday.

Any hopeful applicants who do not submit the notice to the city by deadline are not disqualified from consideration for the license, McGarvey said.  The PGCB’s Bureau of Licensing will review the applications for completeness and ask applicants to address any “deficiencies,” McGarvey said. He didn’t know how much impact, if any, failure to meet the city notification deadline would have on an application.

McGarvey said the state would release the names of applicants and their prospective casino locations within a few days of next week’s PGCB application deadline. The complete applications won’t be made public until the PGCB verifies the information in the applications. Since each application consists of “boxes and boxes” of paper, McGarvey said it would take some time for verification. He anticipates the full documents will be made public sometime early in 2013.  Board investigators must also conduct background checks on applicants and determine financial viability, McGarvey said.

Both the city and the state will hold public meetings to gather Philadelphian’s opinions on the proposals and locations.

McGarvey said the schedule of the state hearings has yet to be determined, but PGCB background information gathering does not have to be completed before the hearings start, he said.

Greenberger said the city is “in the middle of devising” its own public input process. He anticipates it will take at least until spring for the state to determine which applicants are eligible to be considered for the remaining Philadelphia license. The city won’t be privy to information about those issues, Greenberger said. It will concentrate on analyzing the prospective casino locations and the potential community and economic impacts of each one. Philadelphia will present its analysis and any public input received to the gaming board, he said.

When licenses were awarded for SugarHouse Casino, which is open in Fishtown, and Foxwoods Casino, a failed proposal for South Philadelphia, one big complaint from city leaders and residents alike was that the state did not give enough weight to local input. Some Philadelphians oppose casinos anywhere, but others’ concerns were centered around location, and many critics thought the Foxwoods’ Delaware and Reed site was especially problematic, largely due to anticipated traffic problems.

“I think the gaming control board is open to hearing our opinions and will take our input seriously,” Greenberger said.

But in the end, the final decision will rest with the PGCB, he said, noting that the city’s analysis won’t include the confidential financial information the state gets. “They are looking at 100 percent of the story. We’re looking at 50 percent,” he said.

McGarvey estimated it would be at least six to nine months before the board makes a decision on the license.

Greenberger said he’s not anticipating any decision for 10 months to a year.  And then a new process starts. None of the sites he’s heard as potential casino locations are currently zoned to allow casinos, he said. The rezoning process means more public hearings.

“I’ll bet you by the time it’s over it will be 18 months, if not more,” Greenberger said. “No casino is going to appear on any site for some time still.”

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