Drum roll please!
After leaving everyone in suspense for months, Pennsylvania gaming officials will announce Tuesday who gets to build and operate Philadelphia’s second casino. The winner will land the last remaining casino license in Pennsylvania, now second only to Las Vegas as the largest gambling market in the nation.
Pennsylvania is also a significant source of patrons for Maryland casinos, so try to stay with me, DMV folks.
A local company is also a contender for the Philly license — Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which owns and operates Maryland’s largest casino, Maryland Live. Cordish and a partner, operating together as Stadium Casino, LLC, are one of the four finalists.
Cordish wants to open a casino in the stadium district in South Philly. It has run into some unexpected opposition of late, from South Philly residents, who flooded a community meeting last week.
Some of the more than 1,000 in attendance criticized its proximity to an elementary school, according a WPVI-TV News Channel 6 account. Some expressed distaste for “pimping ourselves out.” Others were just adamant that whatever happens in New Jersey should stay in New Jersey.
“We do not want to be the next Atlantic City,” Barbara Capozzi said.
Gentrification may also be feeding anti-casino sentiment. Channel 6 quoted another resident who said, “We are tired of being dumped on, this is not the dumps anymore.”
It was the kind of debate Atlantic City officials probably wish they were having, instead of arguing about whether to cut police services, or talking about how the down-and-out destination needs the municipal equivalent of “a root canal.” The owner of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort filed papers last week to close the casino next month.
Another contender for the Philly casino license would place the gaming hall not far from Cordish’s proposed site, while the other two would plop it closer to City Hall, potentially transforming a high-visibility section of Center City.
None of the above is popular with any of its would-be local competitors, including the city’s only casino, SugarHouse. Having seen slot machine revenues fall two years in a row, existing operators in the city and surrounding burbs have lamented to state gaming officials that another casino would only steal their customers. Or as SugarHouse’s Neil Bluhm once put it: “There is no lost tribe of gamblers out there” waiting for another casino to be built.
Not that that is likely to stop anyone. Casino companies are already busy settling the new gambling frontier in New York and Massachusetts. And lest we forget, Maryland is not quite done. MGM National Harbor is set to open in 2016.
So knowing all this, will Pennsylvania gaming officials go for a Center City face-lift? A South Philly special? Or no new casino at all?
All will be revealed! (Hopefully.) Tuesday afternoon, around one-ish, when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is scheduled to meet.