Gambling regulators are expected to lay out their rationale today in choosing winners of the state's five stand-alone-casino licenses - including two on Philadelphia's riverfront - providing the grist for potential legal challenges from those companies that were passed over and possibly Philadelphia City Council.
Gambling opponents, neighborhood groups and unsuccessful casino applicants have been awaiting the release of the opinions explaining the Dec. 20 licensing decisions.
"We have been, like a lot of people, wondering how they're going to make this argument," said Daniel Hunter, a spokesman for Casino Free Philadelphia, who has been critical of the licensing process. "So now that they're committed to this direction, how are they going to spin it?"
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded city licenses to Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia and SugarHouse Casino, both on the Delaware River waterfront. Three other licenses were awarded, one each in Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and the Poconos. The board's explanation, to be included in an order issued today that will formalize the licensing decisions, could form the basis for appeals. Those appeals would have to be filed within 30 days directly with the State Supreme Court, as required by the 2004 law that authorized slots gambling. Resolution of appeals is expected to take as long as six months.
Philadelphia City Council has already voted to hire a lawyer for a potential legal challenge.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose district includes both sites, has criticized the picks as the worst candidates among five in the city. Slots gambling has already begun at three racetracks, including two in the region: in Chester and Bensalem. Foxwoods and SugarHouse bested three competitors for the city licenses - TrumpStreet in East Falls/Nicetown and two other waterfront proposals, Pinnacle Entertainment and Riverwalk Casino. It was not known whether any would appeal.
The appeals process is one of many tools expected to be used by city gambling opponents to fight casinos. Opponents hope to gather 20,000 signatures and nine of 17 City Council votes required for a Home Rule Charter referendum that would bar casinos from within 1,500 feet of a residential neighborhood. That would eliminate the two Philadelphia sites. Hunter pointed to a Keystone Poll, released yesterday, which found 47 percent of city residents saw casinos as having a negative impact, compared with 43 percent who regarded them positively. Ten percent had no opinion.