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When is a deadline not a deadline?

Written by Bill Toland on .

Turns out last week's "deadline" for some kind of decision on the proposed casino ownership restructuring was more of a soft target: 

"The primary contractor for the North Shore casino will stay on the job for now, confident that a group led by Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm will be able to complete a deal to take over the troubled project. Dan Keating III, chairman of Philadelphia-based Keating Building Corp., said he had the right, as of Wednesday, to terminate his contract with Don Barden's company, PITG Gaming LLC, but won't do so. He said he believes that Mr. Bluhm and his group, Pittsburgh Gaming Holdings, are 'very close' to closing on their financing and getting approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to assume control of the financially troubled casino project. Mr. Keating said subcontractors on the project, who as of yesterday had the right to change the terms of their contracts, including possible price adjustments, agree with his position.

"For now, the status quo will remain, he said. 'Nobody is walking. We're all of the opinion and belief that this deal can be done and that ... [Mr. Bluhm's] a very good owner who is capable of financing it. If we didn't believe that, we would have pulled the plug already,' he said."

... Maybe Dan Keating is convinced, but two state senators don't seem to be:

"Claiming a 'shroud of secrecy' surrounds the quest by Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm and his group to take over the troubled North Shore casino, two state senators pressed yesterday for the release of detailed information involving ownership stakes, financing and other aspects of the bid. ... In a letter to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins, Sens. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, and Jane Orie, R-McCandless, said they have tried without success since July 14 to obtain information relating to the new ownership's corporate structure, debt financing, organization charts and other matters."

... Don Barden might find this hard to believe, but now might actually be a good time to buy a casino:

"The stock prices for many casino operators have lost half of their value in the past few months, but is this the end to gambling as we know it or is now the best time to buy a casino? We are inclined to believe the latter and think that the casino gambling decline is close to an end."

Buy low, sell high, as they say.

... the Inquirer's take on the Barden / Bluhm brokering:

"In classic Harrisburg fashion, key lawmakers and casino operators huddled in private to cobble together a rescue plan. One lawmaker even placed calls to state gaming board officials, raising eyebrows. Gov. Rendell met with State Rep. Dwight Evans and Barden. Also on his speed dial was Neil Bluhm, a billionaire real estate developer from Chicago who is an investor in the proposed SugarHouse slots parlor in Philadelphia. Evans, in turn, called state Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins and board member Jeff Coy. Next thing you know, Bluhm's been dealt a blackjack. His private-equity fund emerged as the majority owner of the Pittsburgh slots parlor after agreeing to kick in $120 million to complete the project. To paraphrase Woody Allen: 80 percent of success is showing up - especially with a cashier's check."

... PennLive editorializes on the same subject.

From the mailbag

You might have missed this:

The Gaming Board has shown itself to be incompetent at best, corrupt at worst. First, in Philadelphia, they license a guy who may be connected to organized crime. Then, in Pittsburgh, they license a guy who had no money of his own to invest in his casino. How does this happen? The entire board should be scrapped, investigated and made to pay for taxpayer losses from their own pockets. And the pockets of their children and so on until we have the free arena we could have had. My entry in Neil Bluhm's casino naming contest is "The Casino to Nowhere" since it is near the former Bridge to Nowhere. Plus it leaves the taxpayers nowhere as far as property tax relief goes!

TOM KERIN
Bethel Park

Keep the e-mails coming. We've been getting a bunch of them the last few weeks, since the whole Barden-Bluhm partnership began to unfold. Or, if you want to talk amongst yourselves, register here to use the P-G's commenting features.

DO NOT DISCARD ...

... monthly statement enclosed.

Anti-casino forces would have preferred no casinos in the first place, obviously, but now that casinos are here, they'd like the casinos to send statements to their frequent, card-carrying players, to tell them how much they've won or lost in a given month (the thinking being that problem gamblers are more likely to recognize the problem if they see how much they lose each month):

"A bill before the General Assembly would require Pennsylvania's casinos to send monthly statements to gamblers on their winnings and losses. Such a step would be a protective measure, said state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks County, the bill's sponsor. The measure was debated at a hearing featuring lawmakers, casino executives and gambling counselors. Tom Bonner, vice president and general counsel of the company that operates the Philadelphia Park Racetrack and Casino, said regular statements wouldn't protect compulsive gamblers. He also said they would cost too much."

The Casino Journal is shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that the casinos are against this.

Dispatches from the border

Dayton Business Journal: "Casino backers from MyOhioNow.com will submit enough signatures on Tuesday to put plans for a $600 million resort on the November ballot, those pushing the initiative said. Rick Lertzman, who heads MyOhioNow with Brad Pressman, said the group will submit the signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. The group will also discuss its fall campaign and disclose the final total of signatures at a media conference in Columbus, he said. Beachwood-based MyOhioNow is pushing an initiative to develop Ohio's first gambling casino. The group said in June it had collected more than 400,000 signatures to bring the issue to a statewide vote."

...  From the AP: "MTR Gaming's second-quarter loss widened despite an 11 percent revenue boost from adding table games at its West Virginia thoroughbred track. Chester-based MTR said today it lost $2.3 million, or 8 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with a loss of $502,000, or 3 cents per share, in the same period last year."

 ... Ocean City, Maryland, is still worried that legalizing slots will draw tourists away from the state's most popular waterfront destination:

"In November, Maryland voters will be asked whether to authorize up to 15,000 slot machines at five venues across the state, resolving a bitter fight that has paralyzed Annapolis politicians for years. Ocean Downs, which opened in 1949, is among two existing racetracks that could be eligible for a share of the machines -- up to 2,500 -- if voters statewide give their blessing ... Hotel and restaurant owners in the neighboring tourist town of Ocean City have emerged as the most vocal opponents of the plan, claiming that slots at Ocean Downs could undermine their businesses and quality of life."

Odds and ends

Las Vegas is going green ... West Virginia hopes to win back some of the customers lost to Pennsylvania casinos ... Anti-casinos forces in Philadelphia sue a judge ... The parent of the Bethlehem Sands has sky-high revenues, but a quarterly loss ... More on the Battle of Gettysburg, Part III: Return of the Casino ... Update on De Scandal in De Poconos.

Ill-gotten fruit has a bitter taste:

"Last week, officials in the Warrior Run (Pa.) School District said they received a check from a local Amish farmer who refused to accept his share of the state's gambling profits. The move is in keeping with an admirable Anabaptist tradition of conscientious objection. Faced with governmental policies that conflict with their religious beliefs, members of the Amish and Mennonite community have long sought ways to satisfy their community responsibilities without sacrificing their moral grounding."

 

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