Casino developers win support of five community groups

CORDISH19
The Live! Hotel & Casino developers also set targets for the hiring of minority and women business enterprises during construction and after the casino opens.

Ahead of what promises to be a contentious City Council zoning hearing Monday, the partnership planning to build the $450 million Live! Hotel & Casino in South Philadelphia said Thursday that it had won the support of the five community groups in neighborhoods surrounding the proposed development.

Stadium Casino L.L.C., a partnership between Cordish Cos. of Baltimore and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., which owns Bensalem's Parx Casino, said its community-benefits agreement established a charitable fund that will disburse at least $15 million in grants over the next 20 years.

That works out to an average of $750,000 a year.

The grants will be administered by a community advisory board with members from the five community groups: the Sports Complex Special Services District; the Stadium Community Council; the Veterans Stadium Neighbors Civic Association; the Whitman Council; and the South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association.

"We have been impressed by the community-engagement efforts initiated by Stadium Casino L.L.C. since the very beginning of their outreach into the neighborhood," Mark Kapczynski, president of the Whitman Council, said in a statement.

Community grants are a common part of the casino landscape in Pennsylvania. SugarHouse, for example, which is close to finishing a $164 million expansion and just completed its fifth year of operations, increased the amount it provides annually for community grants to $1 million, from $500,000.

The Live! Hotel & Casino developers also set targets for the hiring of businesses owned by minorities or women during construction and after the casino opens. Those targets are 47 percent to 58 percent during construction and 50 percent to 60 percent after the casino opens.

The developers said that 50 percent of the permanent workforce of 2,000 would be minorities, which is less than the minority figures of 55 percent at Harrah's Philadelphia Casino in Chester and 53 percent at Sugarhouse, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board data show.

Last month, the city Planning Commission approved Stadium Casino's master plan for the project at 900 Packer Ave., contingent on Council's changing the location's zoning to allow a casino.

That zoning is the subject of Monday's hearing, which is expected to include testimony about alleged racial discrimination against guests at Cordish sites in Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky.

In addition to the zoning change, Cordish and Greenwood also await a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision on appeals of their license by SugarHouse and one of the losing bidders for Philadelphia's second casino license, Market East Associates L.P., which wanted to build a casino at Eighth and Market Streets in Center City.

hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker