Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Foxwoods' loss is city's win

Now that Pennsylvania gambling regulators have taken the right step in revoking the license for the long-delayed Foxwoods Casino on the Delaware River, it’s time for them to consider cutting the city’s losses altogether — by scrapping a second casino for Philadelphia.

Foxwoods' loss is city's win

A rendering of the planned Foxwoods Casino. The Pa. Gaming Commission revoked the gaming license. (www.foxwoodspa.com)
A rendering of the planned Foxwoods Casino. The Pa. Gaming Commission revoked the gaming license. (www.foxwoodspa.com)

Now that Pennsylvania gambling regulators have taken the right step in revoking the license for the long-delayed Foxwoods Casino on the Delaware River, it’s time for them to consider cutting the city’s losses altogether — by scrapping a second casino for Philadelphia.

Thousands of low-income Philadelphians scraping by from week to week don’t need yet another place to gamble away the rent money. SugarHouse Casino already is up and running on North Delaware Avenue, less than three miles from the Foxwoods site. Nearby Bensalem and Chester also offer slots and table games.

Along a waterfront that Mayor Nutter hopes to transform into a thriving residential, commercial and recreational district, one casino is more than enough. The Foxwoods site stands at an already traffic-clogged stretch of South Columbus Boulevard crowded with big-box retail, prompting Nutter bluntly to call it the “wrong site for Philadelphia.”

Even if smarter plans for the site could be floated — such as philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest’s idea to save the SS United States cruise ship by converting it to a casino — the tide seems to be ebbing for a second city casino.

After all, three major casino investors were unable to put a deal together to make the Foxwoods project fly, including gambling magnate Steve Wynn. Even at the eleventh hour, as the state Gaming Control Board was poised to decide Foxwoods’ fate, the project’s backers conceded they had yet to raise much of the money needed to build their gaming hall at the foot of Reed Street.

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With the project backed by local influential businessmen like real estate developer Ron Rubin, South Jersey lawyer Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, outside investors had every reason to believe Foxwoods could put a good deal together.

Yet casinos in the gambling strongholds of Las Vegas and Atlantic City are facing tough times. So maybe Foxwoods’ problems in raising cash stemmed more from the financial markets having determined that another casino in the city simply was a bad bet. If that proves to be the case, then the gaming board rebidding the license won’t do much to improve the odds of success.

If ever a project deserved to have its license pulled, it was Foxwoods. The casino’s backers repeatedly blew one deadline after another to get their gaming hall going, while changing partners more often than square dancers.

Before Thursday’s decision, Foxwoods backers warned of dire consequences if their license was revoked: years-long legal appeals, and even the prospect that the state legislature would move the license elsewhere. But from the city’s perspective, either scenario could be good news, given problem gambling and other social ills stemming from casinos.

Delaying or scrubbing another casino in the city is a win-win.

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