City Council just voted to hold hearings on an unconventional idea being pushed by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady -- using a non-profit corporation to partner with a gaming company bidding for a casino license in Philadelphia. Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Jim Kenney introduced the resolution calling for the hearings. Council members Mark Squilla, Jannie Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown and W. Wilson Goode Jr. co-sponsored it. Only Councilman David Oh voted against it.
"The casino issue is in the hands of the state," Oh said. "We have no say in it."
The hearings would "examine the feasibility and legality" of what the resolution calls "an extraordinary opportunity." The non-profit, established on Nov. 15 as the Philadelphia Casino Benefit Corp., would direct its share of the casino profits to the city's underfunded pension fund and School District.
Council members today received a letter from an attorney for Penn National Gaming, the company that wants to build and operate the casino, perhaps on land the city now owns at Third Street and Packer Avenue in South Philly. The letter says: "This unique offer is a fair, reasonable, and significantly, an entirely legal effort intended to advantage the taxpayers, students, and/or pensioners of the city."
Penn National already owns a controlling stake in a casino near Harrisburg and, according to state law, can only own up to one-third of another casino license. That creates the need for a partner in Philadelphia if Penn National is to win a license being bid on by five other companies.
Mayor Nutter's administration, in letters Nov. 16 to the state Gaming Control Board and Penn National, rejected Brady's idea, originally pitched as the city owning a two-thirds stake in the casino. Nutter's administration said that would violate the state's First Class City Home Rule Act. Brady reorganized his pitch to use a non-profit in an attempt to address that concern.