African-American leaders to air concerns about casino company

Groups allege the company behind the planned casino is discriminatory.

OPPOSITION is growing against a Baltimore company's participation in building a $400 million casino and hotel in South Philadelphia's stadium district.

A coalition of African-American leaders this morning has scheduled a news conference outside City Hall to call for City Council to hold a special hearing to probe allegations that the Cordish Cos. uses discriminatory policies to control the number of blacks that are allowed into the company's venues in Louisville, Ky., and Kansas City, Mo.

Coalition members said they are also concerned that minority firms were not included when the state Gaming Control Board awarded the casino license to Cordish and its partner, Greenwood Racing Inc., last November.

"I don't want City Council to award that zoning to Cordish on a fast track without having a thorough discussion about the impact of the wealth-development process that we, in fact, are being denied," said Bill Miller, a retired public-relations executive, who added that the state Supreme Court is still reviewing a legal challenge filed by another group against Cordish and Greenwood, which owns the Parx Casino in Bensalem.

Cordish, which owns the Xfinity Live dining and entertainment venue in South Philadelphia, does not discriminate against anyone, company officials have repeatedly said since the allegations were first published in Philadelphia this spring.

The company, in fact, has the support of Mayor Nutter and has won over former foes, including the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity Inc. and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.

The coalition members, however, said they want their concerns vetted by Council at a special hearing separate from a Rules Committee hearing scheduled for Monday.

Paula Peebles, chairwoman of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Action Network; the Rev. William Moore, of the Philadelphia Council of Leaders; and the Rev. Mark Tyler, of Mother Bethel AME Church, are scheduled to discuss their strategy to "defeat the fast-track approval of Cordish Casino," according to a news release.

Council is scheduled to vote on zoning legislation for the project Dec. 3. If the legislation is not approved next month, it would have to be reintroduced next year.

Peebles has said that Monday's meeting would not provide her group members with enough time to air their grievances because people with concerns about the zoning legislation, traffic and other issues may also want to address Council.

She said Louisville victims of Cordish's discriminatory practices plan to travel here to tell their stories to Council.

On Twitter: @MensahDean