Another setback in Philadelphia

Written by Bill Toland on .

This is huge news out east (in the casino industry, anyway) and another body blow for a city that is struggling to open its casinos:

Wynn Resorts announced today it is pulling out of negotiations and agreements to develop and operate the Foxwoods Casino project in Philadelphia. 'We are fascinated by the legalization of full gaming in Pennsylvania and stimulated by the opportunity that it presents for Wynn Resorts, but this particular project did not, in the end, present an opportunity that was appropriate for our company,' Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn said in a statement.

The Las Vegas-based casino operator announced in February that it had reached a partnership and management agreement for the casino on the Philadelphia waterfront. Under the proposed agreement, Wynn would have taken a 51 percent stake in the project.

So, back to the drawing board for Foxwoods. Going on four years after winning the rights to build a casino in Philadelphia, they still have no capital, no substantial investors -- and no casino, obviously.

The Wall Street Journal calls it a "jolting" story:

In a jolting move, Wynn Resorts Ltd. said Thursday it is ending plans to develop a casino in Philadelphia. ... If built, the regional casino, which didn't include plans for a hotel, would have represented something of a departure for Mr. Wynn. The casino entrepreneur is known for building grandiose destination resorts, such as Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. The project, originally to be called Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia, has been tangled up in political controversy and financial troubles since it was first approved in 2006. Many city leaders have opposed its waterfront location. The news raises question marks about the likelihood of the troubled Foxwoods project proceeding on the site under the current license.

Given all the bad economic news that Atlantic City has absorbed over the last 18 months, the Philadelphia pull-out actually qualifies as good news:

"NBC40 reports that things could be even better for A.C. as Wynn might just be thinking of moving into the resort. It's just a rumor at this point, but Wynn could easily find a good price on numerous A.C. sites, from the now imperiled Revel site, to the vacant Pinnacle site (that used to be the Sands) and even Resorts and the Hilton. The Hilton, of course, was once Wynn's Golden Nugget."

Yes, that's nice -- but this isn't:

"Atlantic City's casinos suffered a 15.7 percent drop in gaming revenue in February, a month plagued by severe snowstorms that kept gamblers away in droves. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission will report revenue figures for March on Friday."

Closer to home

Nemacolin Woodlands unveiled its casino renderings on Thursday; the proposed casino ("Lady Luck") would have a mountain lodge feel, a bit different than the Wild West saloon that it proposed during the first go-around.

But Nemacolin isn't the only resort vying for the last available casino "resort" license -- Gettysburg is at it again, as is a suprise bidder out of Harrisburg, called Penn Harris Gaming. But back to the Third Battle of Gettysburg:

Lawn signs at one house read "Casino Yes -- Pro Jobs, Pro Tax Relief." On the lawn across the street the signs declare "No Casino -- Don't Gamble With Gettysburg." Even though state gaming regulators are still months away from deciding whether the buzzers and lights of slot machines will liven up a hotel/conference center south of this famous Civil War town, it hasn't kept a fracas over slots from going strong already. This new battle involves the same two groups of combatants who clashed in 2006, when Civil War buffs, both local and national, opposed an effort by Battlefield Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealer David LeVan to get state approval to build a large, 5,000-slot casino a few miles northeast of the town center.

... in Lawrence County, the travails continue for the would-be Valley View Downs racetrack and casino:

"With Lawrence County's proposed racetrack casino already on life support, some of the project's creditors want to force the racetrack developers out of bankruptcy reorganization and into a court-supervised liquidation, according to recent legal filings. If granted, the move could kill the Valley View Downs racetrack project, which has been stalled for months for lack of financing. The move also could make available the state harness-racing and casino licenses associated with the project, possibly setting off a competition among other developers vying for the rights to build a lucrative new racino."

A bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for this coming week.

Odds and ends

Expanded casino gambling coming to Florida? ... Columbus Dispatch: "The four new casinos in Ohio would not be granted 24-hour liquor permits, nor would they be able to offer free alcoholic drinks to players, under the set of ground rules that House Democrats plan to introduce within the next two weeks." ... Pennsylvania table games applications have been approved for the Hollywood Casino, the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. and the Mount Airy Casino in Monroe County, paving the way for poker and blackjack by summer ... is Witchita's casino now on ice? ... Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh has a new VP of table games ...

The Morning Call of Allentown asks, why is it so difficult to forecast casino revenues?:

Mount Airy casino revenue is well below expectations, yet 28 miles away Mohegan Sun is pulling in more money than expected. ... Task force members projected the stand-alone Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh would easily lead the state, projecting gross terminal revenue -- the money left in the machine after all winners are paid -- of $483 million per year. Based on its revenue in March, Rivers is performing as the fifth-best of the nine casinos and is unlikely to reach $300 million in revenue in its first year. State officials predicted the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, would be the state's least lucrative casino at $118 million. Yet Meadows, as of March, is bringing in roughly as much per week as Rivers.

More than three years after Pennsylvania jumped into casino gambling, it's clear the stand-alone casinos projected to be the most lucrative, like Mount Airy Casino Resort, are falling short. And the casinos at horse-racing tracks, like Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, are doing better than expected.

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