Philadelphia will soon become home to the second casino it had been awarded by state legislation, which assured the city’s size merited the distinction of becoming home to two casinos. It still won’t happen for a couple more years because the process is a long and thorough one.
With half the journey behind the city already, the next half sees a major step forward when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board begins hearing public testimony from city officials to her their views of the six proposals before it. That will take place Sep. 24 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, beginning at 11 a.m. in Room 108. It can be seen live at the Gaming Board’s website.
Another date, yet to be announced, will summon the six casino applicants who will return to answer questions developed from this meeting. The Gaming Board is also inviting written testimony on the bidders be made through Sep. 30. A third meeting to develop community concerns is expected to wind up testimony and be followed by a decision.
In competition for winning the second casino bid are Casino Revolution, PHL Local Gaming LLC, 3333 S. Front Street; Live! Hotel and Casino; Stadium Casino, LLC, 900 Packer Avenue; Market 8, Market East Associates, 8th & Market; Hollywood Casino, PA Gaming Ventures, 700 Packer Avenue; The Provence, Tower Entertainment, LLC, 400 N. Broad Street; and Wynn Philadelphia, Inc., 2001 Beach Street, and 2001 through 2003 Richmond Street.
There is no real opposition existing in the City of Philadelphia as had faced the first attempt to pick a second casino. SugarHouse Casino, located at Germantown & Delaware Avenue, the only casino now operating, was met with fierce resident resistance. The second casino, slated for Columbus Boulevard & Reed Street floundered and failed under community resistance and the inability to get its funding together.
The communities that may be impacted by the location of the second casino realize they can benefit from sharing concerns — and big dollars — to ameliorate the impact that casino will have on their area.
SugarHouse Casino, with 58 gaming tables, grossed $7,009,093 in August of this year, over $200,000 more than it did in 2012. Its contribution in the form of taxes to the city has reached several million dollars.
Critics complaining a second casino will not increase revenue, but take from the existing one are met by stats that show more than one casino nearby brings more traffic.
When the second casino begins operation, revenues will match or exceed SugarHouse Casino, since all six applicants offer much larger proposals with more tables, hotels, and a host of other enmities not available to SugarHouse due to its size.
In addition, the award of a second casino is seen as an immediate boon to the city’s Building Trades, with as many as 1,000 trained journeyman expected to be employed during the construction period. Of the six, only Casino Revolution, at 3333 S. Front Street, can be up and running six months earlier than any of the other licensee applicants. That is due to the huge warehouse in the Procacci Tomato Processing complex which is to be the original pad for the casino. It’s walls are up and only interior changes need be made.
Which of the six applicants is awarded the golden ring from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is anybody’s guess at this moment of time.
The Board was established in 2004 with the passage of Act 71, also known as the Race Horse Development & Gaming Act. Pennsylvania’s first new state agency in nearly 30 years, the Gaming Control Board is tasked to oversee all aspects of the state’s casino industry. The 12 casinos in operation all offer both slot machine and table game gambling, employ over 16,000 people, and collectively generate an average of $4 million per day in tax revenue. A portion of that money is used for property-tax reduction to all Pennsylvania homeowners; provide funds to the Commonwealth’s horseracing industry, fire companies, a statewide water and sewer project grant program, and the state’s General Fund. Another portion establishes a new stream of tax revenue to local governments that host casinos for community projects.
Slots revenues were first used to expand the 2006 Property Tax & Rent Rebate program for senior citizens, widows/widowers 50 and over, and people with disabilities.
Penn National Gaming’s commitment to funding city schools and pensions with its profits from Hollywood Casino Philadelphia is also unique. The Hollywood Philadelphia proposal will give two-thirds of its free cash flow to Philadelphia’s cash-strapped schools and retired employee funds. The annual contributions will start at a guaranteed $2 million minimum and revenue estimates show that growing to over $20 million. City Controller Alan Butkovitz states that these donations could total $115 million over the next 15 years.
Hollywood Casino Philadelphia will not alone solve the City’s fiscal problems, but this plan is the only among casino applicants that provides direct aid to these financial problems.
The program expansion increased the income limit from $15,000 to $35,000 (which excludes half of Social Security income) for homeowners and raised the maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters from $500 to $650. Taxes paid in 2006 were the first to be rebated under the expanded program with the first checks sent out in July 2007. Each July, the Dept. of Revenue begins issuing rebate checks for taxes/rent paid in the preceding calendar year.
Beginning with the 2007 PTRR program, slots revenues are used to fund supplemental property-tax rebates for residents of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton, as well as homeowners in other areas of the Commonwealth having no more than $30,000 in household income, while paying more than 15% of their income in property taxes.