Spinning reels in Philly

There was a good piece on the coming of slot casinos to Philadelphia in USA Today:

Visitors come here to see just one bell — the Liberty Bell. Soon they’ll be looking for a row of them — on a slot machine.

Pennsylvania’s 2-year-old state gaming board is to award licenses Wednesday for two slot machine casinos to be built here. That will make Philadelphia the largest city in the country with casinos and put legalized gaming within 2 miles of Independence Hall, where the founding fathers gambled their fortunes on revolution.

The arrival of slots parlors here is part of the spread of gambling through the mid-Atlantic. New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have casinos. Pennsylvania and Delaware have slots at racetracks, and Maryland’s incoming governor wants to do the same.

In Philadelphia, founded by Quakers whose religious beliefs prohibit gambling, slots casinos are facing a cold welcome from the neighbors.

In Pennsport, the riverfront neighborhood where Rene Goodwin lives in a 19th-century brick row house, the elevated bulk of Interstate 95 separates narrow residential streets from big-box stores and the city’s container port. One of the casinos is proposed for a vacant site next to Wal-Mart.

“It isn’t this hinterland,” says Goodwin, who leads Riverfront Communities United, a group of seven neighborhood associations. Pennsport would be overwhelmed by traffic and crime if the slots parlor is built two blocks away, she says. “It’s a real place, where people know each other. … Is it worth destroying one of the best neighborhoods in the city for a casino?”

Five proposals are competing for the two licenses. The developers include Donald Trump; the Pequot tribe, which runs Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut; and the owner of Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers. Four of the proposed slots parlors would be built along the Delaware River, and the fifth would be across town, closer to wealthy suburbs.

Philly to be largest gambling city – USATODAY.com

You’ve got to wonder what this will do to Atlantic City. Now, more than ever, is the time to broaden the appeal beyond slot machines. There’s been a great start with Borgata, but the ultimate fate of the city as destination may rest with the next generation of resorts–whatever replaces the Sands, and several other projects on the drawing board.

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