Foxwoods and SugarHouse in Philly

It’s a bad day for Donald Trump and Penguins fans, but a good day for some others: the Pennsylvania Gaming Board has chosen the winners for the two-years slot license derby in that state. From the Inquirer:

South Philadelphia and the Fishtown area to the north will play host to the city’s two slots casinos.

Foxwoods Casino on Columbus Boulevard, and SugarHouse Casino near Fishtown and Northern Liberties, were approved for slots licenses this morning by the Pennsylvania Gaming Board.

The board’s decisions, in two separate votes, are considered likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The ballots were cast just before 11:30 a.m. in a packed conference hall. The audience included Mayor Street.

Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia, a $560 million project in South Philadelphia, will be built on a 30-acre parcel off Columbus Boulevard, north of Home Depot and Target.

Developers say that by November 2008, they will have installed 3,000 slot machines, restaurants, shops, and a 2,000-seat entertainment complex. Investors include Quincy Jones, Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, and 76ers president Billy King.

Sugarhouse Casino is a $550 million project on 22.6 acres on North Delaware Avenue at Shackamaxon Street. Plans call for 3,000 slot machines, restaurants, a plaza, and a pedestrian promenade. It would employ 1,090 people.

Investors include Chicago developer Neil Bluhm, lawyer Richard Sprague, former State Supreme Court Justice William L. Lamb, and auto sales magnate Robert M. Potamkin.

The board did not explain why they selected each applicant. A written explanation will be issued later.

The board was supposed to follow strict criteria when selecting the winners. Among them: whether applicants can maintain a successful, revenue-producing casino; how they would finance the casino; their history of promoting diversity; and their impact on the communities in which they plan to build.

The move puts casinos on the northern and southern ends of the city’s central waterfront.

Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/20/2006 | Foxwoods and SugarHouse Approved

In other news, Las Vegas Sands will build a standalone slots casino in Bethlehem, a city that has promoted itself as “Christmastown, USA,” or something along those lines. Is a Christmas-themed casino in the cards? All signs point to “no.” And Majestic Star’s Don Barden gets the Pittsburgh license, meaning that the Isle of Capri deal to build a new arena for the Penguins is moot. I can think of no better way to add insult to injury for Pens fans than for Barden to build an arena near Fitzgerald’s in downtown Las Vegas (which he also owns) and then lure the Penguins to Las Vegas. Seriously, though, I think that both the NHL and the franchise have a plan B, so the Pens won’t necessarily be turning up in Kansas City or Hamilton, Ontario any time soon.

I don’t know what a Sugarhouse is, but it sounds like a diabetic’s nightmare, or someplace near the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe. Seriously, it sounds like something you’d find in Storybook Land. If you’re not familiar with the happiest place in Egg Harbor Township, or just want to hear the best creepy clown music ever, click the link. Of course, while I’m poking good-natured fun here, I’ll point out that it costs about $550 million more than anything I’ve ever built or named. I’m sure that they did all kinds of market studies before they came up with the name.

The reality of 6000 slot machines only 60 miles away might just make up some Atlantic City operators who’ve been dragging their feet. It’s time for the “Casino Capital of the East” to take a page from Las Vegas’s book and diversify into non-gaming tourism. The impact might have been mitiaged if Trump or Pinnacle had snared a Philadelphia license, but this looks serious. If you’re a glass half empty person, it’s a problem, but for the optimist, it’s an opportunity.

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