Foxwoods seeks return of casino license in court appeal

The last rendering of the proposed Foxwoods Casino on Christopher Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street in South Philadelphia..

The investors behind Foxwoods, the long-stalled South Philly casino that had its license revoked in December, argued today that the state Gaming Control Board was wrong to take that action without first holding what amounts to a trial to consider evidence.

Attorney Steven Cozen said the board took the advice of its staff on two key factors – whether the investors were still financially suitable to build a casino and if they had violated a set of deadlines to make that happen – without calling a single witness to testify.

“They used an improper procedure in order to short-circuit our rights in order to get the result they wanted,” Cozen argued in front of the state Commonwealth Court. “That’s not right.”

James Eisenhower, an attorney for the board, countered that the gaming regulators “bent over backwards” to work with the investors, who were just introducing a third casino operator after four years of delays. The investors were not able to meet a deadline to open the casino by this May 29 and the board opted not to offer an available extension to Dec. 31, 2012.

“It was not completed,” Eisenhower said of the financial details in the deal with Harrah’s Entertainment, presented to the board in December. “The board said: You know what? We’ve been down this road before. Enough is enough.’”

Both sides faced skeptical questions from judges.

“I’m just wondering: How many bites at the apple do they have to give the licensee,” Judge Patricia McCullough asked Cozen at one point.

Judge Kevin Brobson noted the license revocation would lead to even more delays in opening the casino, which will pay taxes to Philadelphia and the state.

“When is this other casino going to get built?” Brobson asked.

The Gaming Control Board’s staff has estimated that it will take four years from December until the license is successfully rebid to a new applicant, due to court challenges and the approval process.

Cozen, after the case was argued, predicted that the court will issue a ruling in 60 to 90 days.