Goode: Riverwalk should get license

City Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. today will ask his colleagues to give a second chance to one of the losing bidders for a casino in Philadelphia.

Goode wants Council to approve a resolution demanding that the state Gaming Control Board reverse its decision to award two gaming licenses here.

The proposed resolution says the board should make a new decision that "reflects the diversity" required by the state law that legalized slot-machine gambling.

The resolution, which does not compel any action, also cites one of three failed casino applicants, the Pennsylvania Partnership Group, as "an extremely diverse cadre of Philadelphia-based business owners and investors."

That group, which applied with Planet Hollywood under the name "Riverwalk" for a casino at the city-owned site at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street, has appealed the Gaming Control Board's December decision.

The state Supreme Court will hear that appeal on May 15.

Goode said he supports the Riverwalk appeal because the local investors group was controlled by minorities who had a controlling stake in the venture.

"Clearly the best way to ensure diversity is to go with the proposal that already shows the most minority participation," he said.

Goode said he expects to have the votes to pass the resolution.

Council has passed several challenges to the Gaming Control Board's decision to license two casinos on the Delaware riverfront, Foxwoods in South Philly and SugarHouse in Fishtown.

Council has filed its own appeal to the state Supreme Court and also approved a referendum for the May 15 ballot asking voters where casinos should be built. The state Supreme Court recently knocked that issue off the ballot at the request of the Gaming Control Board, which complained that it conflicted with state law.

Mayor Street, who has cautioned Council on those moves, yesterday said he didn't have a problem with Goode's resolution.

Street endorsed the Riverwalk application just before the Gaming Control Board selected Foxwoods and SugarHouse, which the city had ranked as the worst proposed casino sites.

Bill Miller, one of the Riverwalk investors, yesterday lashed out again at the Gaming Control Board's decisions, saying that it favored the politically connected and made sure "the wealthy got wealthier." Miller conceded his group was laden with its own political connections.

"Ultimately we didn't get a license," he said. "Their political clout obviously was more important than ours."

Miller has also asked state Rep. Harold James of Southwest Philadelphia, chairman of the new state House Gaming Oversight Committee, to hold hearings on whether the Gaming Control Board's decision adequately considered diversity in investors.

James yesterday said that he was considering the request.

Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Gaming Control Board, yesterday responded to Goode's proposed resolution by saying, "Riverwalk has already taken the correct route if they feel the board's decision is incorrect by appealing to the [state] Supreme Court. However, we believe our decisions will be upheld by that court and these casinos will be built in the locations selected."

Foxwoods, which hopes to start construction on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street this summer, held a "vendor fair" yesterday to explain how would-be builders can get approved by the state to work on the project.

Several minority- and female-owned firms attended, according to Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, a partner in the project, is 100 percent minority while the local investor group is "40 percent diverse," Garrity added.

"When you look at our partnership, diversity is clearly a priority," Garrity said. "Foxwoods puts its money where its mouth is." *