Gaming Board hearing: Take 3

Philadelphia Casino
Shown is an interior view of the gaming floor at the SugarHouse Casino, Philadelphia's only casino so-far. It opened on for Sept. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Editor's note: A second round of public hearings on applications for Philadelphia's second casino license is underway by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Twenty people have spoken so far. The hearings are expected to last until 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

With about 20 speakers before noon, the gaming board’s public hearing is turning into a popularity contest. Turning out with the most friends: developer Bart Blatstein of The Provence; developer Ken Goldenberg of Market8; and South Philly produce vendor Joe Procacci.  

More than 50 cheerleaders for Procacci’s Casino Revolution in South Philly came dressed in matching T-shirts that had the name of the development company, PHL Local Gaming.

But it’s not all a love-fest. Many speakers are union workers who worry about the quality of casino jobs. Bob McDevitt works for Unite Here, a union which represents 270,000 hospitality industry workers. He urged the board to have the winner of the license sign a “labor peace agreement” which would allow workers to decide whether to organize or not without threat of retaliation. McDevitt gave a shout-out for Steve Wynn, saying the Las Vegas operator gives his workers good pay, health care and retirement plans.

Philip Browndeis owns property in the loft district of Chinatown North. He’s not happy with Blatstein’s plan to convert the old offices of The Inquirer into a hotel and entertainment center featuring The Provence casino. He called a casino nothing more than a regressive tax that was “bad economics, bad public policy and doesn’t improve the quality of life.”

Providing the most zingers of the morning was Kiki Bolender of the Design Advocacy Group, a forum for professionals in architecture and design. DAG gave a report card on each project. On the “honor roll” were Market8 and The Provence. The three South Philadelphia projects got bland grades and Wynn Philadelphia nearly flunked. Bolender said the plan features “acres and acres of parking” and perhaps the “biggest, flattest building in Philadelphia." Ouch.
Find more coverage from today's hearing.