Editorial | The wolf may not be so big and bad

One thing is certain about casinos: They're coming to Philadelphia. Or they're not.

The odds remain long that the Casino-Free Philadelphia forces will prevail, no question. There's enormous political pressure - from Harrisburg to City Hall - to generate the millions of dollars for tax relief, not to mention the construction and casino jobs promised by slot parlors.

Yet, there have been signs that the gambling juggernaut won't proceed without the public's having more to say about it. Among those signs:

Council did the right thing last week by unanimously overriding Mayor Street's veto of the May 15 ballot question on casino zoning.

If approved by Philadelphia voters, the City Charter change could force the city's two slot casinos to move off the Delaware River waterfront, or out of the city altogether.

Council's back-to-back 17-0 votes in support of the ballot question - first approving the measure, then overriding Street's veto - is a good indication that city voters will get their say on this issue. There's also broad support for the ballot question among the candidates for mayor.

With weeks to go before the primary, the casino question could be upended yet. But it was another hopeful sign that City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. decided that the city shouldn't try to strike the question from the ballot.

At this point, that's the right course - to let the casino question go before Philadelphia voters.

If the charter change is approved, there's little doubt its fate will be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where all casino appeals go.

Look for the state Gaming Control Board to file immediately to overturn any city-imposed zoning limits, as the board already has vowed.

As for the outcome of that court appeal, conventional wisdom says there's no way casino opponents prevail, right? Well, not so fast.

A detailed legal analysis issued the other week by the Casino-Free citizens group lays out a compelling case that the city never gave up its right to set zoning rules for casinos. The brief cites state Supreme Court precedents, not obscure Scottish law, or anything like that.

Another twist and turn on the casino zoning front last week, came with word that 2002 Council-approved zoning rules for the north Delaware River waterfront already may rule out the SugarHouse casino site - although, not the site of its southern neighbor, Foxwoods.

And at the state Supreme Court last week - which has several political hot-potato cases before it - the justices engaged in their own bit of push-back. They rejected the gaming board's bullying insistence that four losing casino applicants must post a total of $364 million in bonds to appeal the license selections.

If the casinos are coming, let it at least be on a level playing field.