It's about time.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday issued fines of $116,000 against the developers of what is supposed to be Philadelphia's Foxwoods Casino, with "supposed to be" the operative phrase.
Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners was among five groups awarded licenses in December 2006 for stand-alone slot-machine casinos to be built across the state. In the intervening three years, the project has not moved off the drawing board and the developer hasn't even completed financing arrangements. Which led to the fine.
Other casino projects have hit their snags -- Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino changed owners and its design was modified and Philadelphia's other casino, SugarHouse, is behind schedule but set to open soon -- but nothing like Foxwoods. Its officials spent months debating whether to try to change locations, dealing with citizen opposition and trying to raise the money necessary for the $500 million facility. In August, the gaming board threatened to revoke Foxwoods' license if it doesn't open for business by May 2011. It also set a deadline of Dec. 1 for Foxwoods to submit design and financing documents, even though the developers said they needed until March 1 to find a new investor.
Foxwoods failed to meet the Dec. 1 deadline, which pushed the board to assess $2,000 per day, retroactive to that date, and the fines will keep accruing until the board gets all the information demanded. Board chairman Greg Fajt of Mt. Lebanon said members have lost faith in Foxwoods because of all the broken promises. On March 3, the board will consider other sanctions, which could include revoking the project's license and opening the casino license application process to new bidders.
But don't count Foxwoods out of the game just because the Philadelphia group has finally exhausted the patience of the gaming control board.
In a story last Sunday, The Philadelphia Inquirer laid out how Stephen A. Cozen, a lawyer and lobbyist for Foxwoods, worked the back room in Harrisburg, with help from his friend Gov. Ed Rendell, and got his client the possibility of a 19-month extension for its opening day. The governor told the newspaper he favored giving the casino more time because the state needs the revenue that the casino will bring, but the way the language favorable to Foxwoods made it into the 230-page table games bill sure makes it seem that somebody played this game with loaded dice.
After so many delays and failure to meet its obligations, Foxwoods is a bad bet.