The SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River in Fishtown was rated the best of five city casino proposals in December by the state Gaming Control Board, and that shaped its decision to place a second casino in South Philadelphia.
That casino, Foxwoods, which is also on the Delaware River, was selected in part because the board didn't want to choose one of two other applicants close to SugarHouse and didn't like the Nicetown location of Donald Trump's proposal.
The board yesterday explained its Dec. 20 decisions in a 113-page written opinion followed up by a meeting with news reporters.
While all five applicants for two casino licenses in the city were found by the board to be "solid, competent," the Riverwalk proposal for the former trash incinerator site at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street clearly finished last in the judging.
Mayor Street, in a recommendation to the board in December, endorsed Riverwalk's proposal and rated SugarHouse and Foxwoods as the worst proposals.
Tad Decker, chairman of the Gaming Control Board, yesterday said Street's recommendations were not considered in the final decision because it was not part of the "evidentiary record" of the board's proceedings.
Since public hearings in November, board members have questioned Riverwalk's ownership structure, which placed a 51 percent controlling stake in the hands of local investors backed by Planet Hollywood, which was putting up most of the money.
Decker said Planet Hollywood would have had the real control for at least six to eight years, based on that financing, before Riverwalk's local investors could take the reins and act on promised charitable investments.
"For me, it was the hardest organization to understand," said board member Jeff Coy.
Board member Mary DiGiacomo Colins agreed and added that the Riverwalk proposal was "nothing outstanding."
Bill Miller, who helped assemble Riverwalk's local investor group, said yesterday that an appeal is being considered.
Under the state's gaming law, any appeal of the board's decisions must be filed within 30 days of the release of the written opinion and goes directly to the state Supreme Court.
"We were disappointed with the outcome but we're even more upset and disturbed by their opinion," Miller said.
Street's spokesman, Joe Grace, yesterday responded to the board's opinion by saying: "Once the board made its decision known, we made it clear the city is ready, willing and able to work with the applicants who were awarded licenses to ensure the best possible gaming facilities are constructed on our waterfront."
Another factor the board used when weighing applicants was investment in Atlantic City. The board was concerned that local casinos would push customers to Atlantic City, where the tax rate on gaming revenue is significantly lower than in Pennsylvania.
Pinnacle, which had proposed a riverfront site in Fishtown, is developing an Atlantic City site.
Decker also was unimpressed with Pinnacle's lack of ideas for improving traffic on local streets near the Fishtown site.
"That was a big factor for us," he said.
Pinnacle yesterday said it has no plans to file an appeal.
Trump's Atlantic City action, combined with his choice of a Nicetown location, doomed his bid. The board, in its decision, described the site of the former Budd Co. plant as "sandwiched" between several residential neighborhoods and too far away from Center City restaurants.
"It's never been our intention to appeal, but we still need to thoroughly review the opinion," Trump spokesman Tom Hickey said yesterday.
Community and political activists have increased a drumbeat of local disapproval for the two casinos approved by the board. A Daily News poll released this week showed 47 percent of city residents think casinos will have more a negative than positive impact here while 43 percent see a positive impact and 10 percent are not sure.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco yesterday said he was still interviewing attorneys to file an appeal of the board's decisions. Council last week approved DiCicco's call to fund that effort.
SugarHouse and Foxwoods are in DiCicco's district.