BY JOSEPH PROCACCI, CEO, PHL Local Gaming/ With the Suitability Hearings of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board now complete, we at PHL Local Gaming have been very much impressed with the due diligence of the Gaming Board members and staff. We’ve taken careful note of the Board’s criteria for reviewing the applicants’ proposals, including their anticipated economic impact, their accessibility, their projected impact on traffic, the financial stability of the principals, the quality of their relationships with the neighboring communities at their sites, and their respective plans for ensuring diversity, throughout their processes, and over the life of their proposed operations.
The hearings have offered Philadelphia a valuable opportunity to assess the various proposals, on each of those criteria, and on others specific to their respective communities. The PGCB’s very-deliberate process has provided a strong vantage point for making informed comparisons, and has created an appropriate environment for weighing the claims of the bidders against critical questions raised by its members and by community members.
At PHL Local Gaming, we fully appreciate how important it is that the City’s new casino be situated in the best and most-readily accessible location, that it not create traffic problems, or other neighborhood-related issues, and that its economic benefits are available, by way of a fairly designed and implemented inclusion plan, to all people in our community, and primarily to Philadelphia residents, regardless of race, gender, or other cultural or class distinctions. No Philadelphia resident, in our opinion, should feel excluded from an opportunity to participate in what will be a project with an impact that will encompass hundreds of millions of dollars.
We’re concerned that the neighbors – residential and commercial – at whichever site is finally selected should not be substantially inconvenienced and economically disadvantaged. If that happens, then the City and State will clearly run the risk of protracted, related legal objections, delaying much-needed job creation and economic impact for the city and the state.
For those, and other reasons, we believe our Casino Revolution site, at Front & Pattison, in South Philadelphia, is the best choice.
At PHL Local Gaming, we have consistently supported a strong commitment to local and South Philadelphia-specific jobs, for local bid preference on contracts, and to an innovative and transformative Entertainment Center concept that we’re calling LoSo, which would be related to our project. The members of our ownership group including, Joe Canfora, Bennett Lomax and me, have talked in great detail about our “Philadelphia-First” commitment. We also have a project that has provided evidence that it can open at least six months earlier than any other bidder, at which point we would be able to create 600 jobs and $64 million in wages and city and state tax revenues, at least six months before any other casino could even open for business.
And following testimony recently given at the Suitability Hearings, we now know Casino Revolution would actually be able to open earlier than either of the other two South Philadelphia bidders, a full 15 months earlier than Market8, and 12 months earlier than the other Center City proposal, The Provence. Even further, with our 24-acre footprint, Casino Revolution’s bid is the only one, among the five, with enough capacity to expand to the Commonwealth’s 5,000-slot limit, in response to market demand, which would provide the greatest overall jobs, contract and tax revenue benefits to the City and the State.
In addition to having the support of our closest neighbors, in the Whitman Community, the least intrusive and readily accessible location, and 2800 free parking spaces, Casino Revolution has, it is clear, the absolute strongest diversity commitment among any of the bidders. That includes the largest percentage of minority ownership, the greatest minority representation on its board, the best-in-the-process diversity employment and contract goals, and the addition of the H.J. Russell Co., the nation’s 15th-largest African American-owned business, to its construction-management team.
Having now had an opportunity to review all of the presentations made recently to the Gaming Board, we are more convinced than ever that our PHL Local Gaming bid, and our Casino Revolution and LoSo projects, would be best for our community, for Philadelphia, and for the Commonwealth.