Remember last week when we said that Neil Bluhm, head of the Majestic Star's new ownership group, might be forced to consider moving his Philadelphia casino away from the city's riverfront, if only to speed up the construction process (since neither of the two proposed Philly casinos, Bluhm's SugarHouse or Foxwoods, has broken ground yet)? No? Well, I did. You can look it up. Just scroll down a bit. Or click here.
Point is, last Friday the state Supreme Court rescued the SugarHouse project, or at least it seems that way on first blush:
A group of state Senate and House members who represent neighborhoods near the proposed SugarHouse casino pledged today to go to federal court to overturn a decision that lets the casino build on submerged riverfront land. [The] legislators sharply criticized a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision issued Friday that gave riparian rights to the casino developer. They also argued that submerged land along the waterfront should be under state control.
The strategies are the latest effort by those opposed to casinos being built along the Delaware River waterfront. The casinos have received the approval to build there by the state Gaming Control Board, an approval that was affirmed by the state Supreme Court.
"We believe the court overstepped its boundaries," said Rep. Michael O'Brien, as he boarded a plane from Chicago to Denver for the Democratic National Convention today. O'Brien was joined in the statement by State Rep. William Keller and Sens. Vincent J. Fumo and Michael Stack, all Democrats from Philadelphia.
"Our legislative counsel is reviewing the decision," O'Brien said, "and we assume to take it up to the federal court and review our options there and also seek legislative remedies."
Meanwhile, SugarHouse's chief executive officer, Greg Carlin, said today that his company was moving forward on obtaining remaining permits and removing debris at the site for the $700 million casino planned for North Delaware Avenue at Shackamaxon Street.
Full speed ahead. Until this thing ends up in federal court.
... Editorial: "The Delaware riverfront is the wrong location for the proposed SugarHouse and Foxwoods casinos. That's the conclusion of PennPraxis design experts who prepared a site plan review for Mayor Nutter. It said the proposed big-box slots parlors and their mammoth parking garages wouldn't be compatible with the kind of waterfront most Philadelphians want - walkable, relatively green, connected to the rest of the city. Among the few people who don't seem to recognize this planning dilemma are the casino developers, the state gaming board and Gov. Rendell, who will convene a meeting today of interested parties."
Slots law overhaul
"A member of the state's casino oversight board fired back at senators who want to eliminate outside income of board members, saying lawmakers should play by the same rules. 'I'm an old believer in what's good for one is good for all,' said Jeffrey Coy, a former House member from Shippensburg earning $145,000 a year on the Gaming Control Board. 'Jeff knows better than that,' said Stephen MacNett, general counsel for Senate Republicans. 'He was a legislator and he knows that the role of a legislator is very different than that of a gaming board member.' Legislation sponsored by Sen. Vincent Fumo, a pro-gambling Democrat from Philadelphia, and Sen. Jane Orie, an anti-slots Republican from McCandless, would prevent future board members from receiving outside income."
Dispatches from Atlantic City
Comps are becoming harder to find in Atlantic City:
"With a slow economy and competition from neighboring states hurting their revenues, comps are growing scarce at Atlantic City's 11 casinos. And its mostly high-end players who are now getting the benefits that used to be common for many patrons, especially seniors and daytrippers who mostly played the slots. Overall, Atlantic City casinos spent $375 million on premium hotel rooms and other perks in the three months ending June 30."
... AC is at a crossroads:
"High gas prices, fierce competition and an ailing economy have taken a heavy toll on Atlantic City's casinos, and industry analysts predict even more pain ahead, including layoffs, bankruptcy filings and lower tax revenue for senior citizen programs. 'Atlantic City is truly at a crossroads,' said Harvey Perkins, senior vice president of the casino consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group. 'Layoffs are a given.' [Other] analysts take a similarly dim view of the state of the A.C. market. 'We may be passing through the darkest point in the tunnel right now, but it would be foolish to believe the tough times are behind us,' Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnett wrote in a recent report."
... But the tree of gambling must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of casino magnates and their employees:
"'The best thing that happened to Atlantic City is competition,' Perkins said. 'This market has had lazy exclusivity for 28 years, because very few of the operators chose to reinvest vibrantly. Those that did invest are faring better than those that didn't.'"
Odds and ends
The Meadows' success means good things for Washington County's Tanger outlet stores, and vice versa ... From the Hindsight is 20/20 Dept: "The Democratic candidate for state attorney general said he would have sought a court injunction to block the awarding of a slots license to Dunmore businessman Louis A. DeNaples had he been in office at the time." ... The same company that is to operate The Meadows' new casino has a grand opening scheduled for Nevada ... Penn National's Hollywood casino near Harrisburg is performing admirably in light of high gas prices and less discretionary spending ... This guy is unimpressed with how casinos expanded into Pennsylvania ... MTR's credit rating may drop.
Bad news for the Buffalo, N.Y., casino:
"Opponents of casino gambling in Buffalo say they have won another legal round. The Seneca Nation of Indians, meanwhile, say they will appeal the lastest decision while gambling continues at their temporary casino near downtown. Federal Judge William Skretny has reaffirmed his decision earlier this summer, namely, that casino gambling on the Senecas' Buffalo Creek site near H-S-B-C Arena is illegal. But Tuesday's ruling leaves the question of how to enforce his July decision up to the National Indian Gaming Commission. In a written statement, Senecas say construction of a permanent casino on the Buffalo Creek site will continue."