A soft opening

Written by Bill Toland on .

prepare for a serious gorgingWhat better way to celebrate the end of Lent -- and the end of all those self-imposed Lenten prohibitions on booze, beer, fatty foods and what not -- than by stuffing your face and liver at The Meadows next week?

Here's schedule, released today:

Monday, April 13
5:59 a.m. - Temporary casino closes
9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. - Media tour of new casino
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Invitation-only testing of the new casino

Tuesday, April 14

Temporary and permanent casinos closed
2 p.m. employee pep rally in former temporary casino

Wednesday, April 15
9:30 a.m. - Ribbon-cutting ceremony
10 a.m. - New $175-million casino opens to the public

... And here's the very latest out of Philadelphia, which has been under fire for moving so slow on casino construction:

"The developers for one of Philadelphia's two proposed slots parlors plan to open a temporary casino next year. SugarHouse casino's developers say they hope to open the 1,700-machine temporary facility before the middle of 2010. The temporary slots parlor would be incorporated into the final design for the site on the Delaware River waterfront. The developers say they can move forward with construction after the state Gaming Control Board approves the design changes. The temporary parlor will take about nine months to build."

... For all the controversy that The Rivers' garage has caused, you'd think they would have taken special care to make sure the thing remained upright:

If the huge parking garage being built behind the Rivers Casino on the North Shore seemed a bit out of kilter recently, your eyes didn't deceive you. Parts of the nine-level garage were found to be leaning by nearly a foot, prompting intervention by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a plan of action by contractors to straighten things out.

Despite the problems, OSHA found the garage to be "safe and structurally sound," Acting Area Director Frank Librich said yesterday. "At no time during erection were employees in danger of a building collapse." The agency became involved after receiving an anonymous tip in February saying that floors seven through nine in the garage were out of plumb, or leaning.

... "With seven of the state's 14 authorized casinos open, slots gambling hasn't hurt state lottery sales, at least not yet, state Revenue Secretary Stephen Stetler told a legislative panel. 'Overall, lottery ticket sales remain steady at about 1 percent higher compared to last fiscal year,' he said. That's better than in many states, because lottery sales are down 2 percent nationwide. For the first eight months of fiscal 2008-09 (through the end of February), lottery sales were $2.044 billion, or $27.3 million more than the first eight months of the previous fiscal year."

Around the state

Gov. Ed Rendell is still pushing for poker machines that pay out:

"Though his plan hasn't gained much traction, especially among local lawmakers, Gov. Ed Rendell is continuing to pitch his proposal to legalize video poker machines in bars and private clubs and use the revenue to offset tuition costs for some college students. At recent stops, including one last week in Reading, Rendell detailed the plan [to] legalize the thousands of currently illegal video poker machines operating throughout Pennsylvania and to authorize others. The proceeds, according to Rendell, would generate about $550 million a year for the state to be used to offset tuition costs for students the 14 state-owned universities or any community college in the state."

To be clear, the poker machines are legal, as long as they are used for recreation only -- and many of them are not.

... From the P-G's Tom Barnes:

A group of Asian-Americans in Philadelphia is angry at the state Gaming Control Board for moving up the time of a meeting next Wednesday.

The board wants to hear from officials of two would-be Philadelphia casinos about why it's taking them so long to get the casinos built -- and producing funds to reduce property taxes for Pennsylvanians. The board was going to meet Wednesday at 11 am, and a busload of Philly residents -- probably most of them against casinos -- plans to attend.

But now the meeting has been moved up to 9:30 a.m. which will make it more difficult, the Asian group said. Asian Americans United said "it's shameful that the board plans to hold a public meeting on Philadelphia casinos outside our city. But this latest move further demonstrates the board's determination to thwart public participation.''

The group doesn't like the possibility that Foxwoods, one of the two proposed casinos, will move from its original site in South Philadelphia, along the Delaware River, to one of two locations in Center City, just a couple blocks from the city's Chinatown. Some Asians say many people of Asian heritage seem to demonstrate a particular weakness for gambling, and putting a huge slots casino virtually next to Chinatown is a bad idea.

... More from Philly:

"The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed with archaeologists for the SugarHouse casino that the project's 22-acre Philadelphia site along the Delaware River does not hold remnants of a British fort from the Revolutionary War or an 18th-century men's social club."

Which means it's OK to build there.

Dispatches from the border

We're inching closer to a new casino measure in Ohio:

"Attorney General Richard Cordray approved language to be used on petitions for the issue to establish casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. It was the second round of wording submitted by the Ohio Jobs and Growth Committee. The coalition of casino owners and business interests wants to put the question on the ballot this fall. Cordray rejected the first submission, saying it didn't specify the casino locations and was unclear about taxing winnings."

...Gambling "purists" should like this news, out of Atlantic City:

"It used to be the signature sound of gambling: the clacking of coins spilling into metal trays on slot machines. But newer electronic machines that spit paper vouchers or credit winnings to cards now emit only canned noise. Now Atlantic City's oldest casino is bringing back the real clang amid indications that some gamblers miss the way things used to be ... [The] coin experiment is definitely swimming against the tide in the casino industry, where nearly 90 percent of the 900,000 or so slot machines in use in north America do not accept or pay out in coins."

Odds and ends

Not the best timing for slots in Maryland ... Horse troubles in Maryland, too ... Pennsylvanians support table games, according to these polling numbers ... Pennsylvania's monthly casino revenues are up in some spots, down in other.

It's not any easier to win, but at least it's cheaper to lose:

"Up until a few months ago, the minimum blackjack table at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls had been $10. Now, Western New York's biggest casino advertises that $5 blackjack tables are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The recession is bringing hard times to the gambling industry, [but] it appears bad times are good for gamblers, at least those who still have money."

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