PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia City Council committee has signed off on a $125-million expansion of the Sugarhouse Casino, along the Delaware riverfront in Fishtown.

Today’s hearing featured little of the opposition that once marked the project.

Before Sugarhouse was built, the initial City Council hearings saw the chambers packed with vocal opponents to casino gambling in Philadelphia (below).

Story continues below photo…

casino protesters city council32 Philadelphia Lawmakers OK Expansion of Sugarhouse Casino

(Casino opponents pack Philadelphia City Council chambers in 2008. File photo)


Now, Sugarhouse has been open for more than a year, and the Council hearing today on the casino’s planned expansion drew just one single opposing voice — attorney and longtime casino opponent Paul Boni.

“I believe this is incredibly bad land use,” he told the hearing.  “What it involves is a mammoth parking garage, and also making permanent the sea of surface parking.”

The Council heard him out but then went ahead, without debate, to approve the expansion plan.  The measures now go to the full Council for a vote, and approval is expected.

Sugarhouse general manager Wendy Hamilton testified that the casino has not prompted any increase in crime in the area, and Councilman Jim Kenney said that belies the original dire predictions of casino opponents.

(Kenney:)  “So, the scenarios of increased crime, prostitution, car theft, murder, mayhem, and everything else that we heard for months and months and months, didn’t happen?”

(Hamilton:)  “Not on our property.”

Sugarhouse spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker says the expansion was in the works long before Sugarhouse opened.

“What we opened last year was what we call the ‘interim’ casino,” she told KYW Newsradio prior to today’s hearing.  “We’ve always had a phased development plan for the property.  We will have additional slot machines, additional table games. We will also have a dedicated poker room.”

The gaming floor would increase from 50,000 square feet to 90,000.  Parking will also get a boost, says Whitaker:

“In addition to an expansion of the actual gaming floor, we would also build a parking garage that would have direct access to the gaming floor, (and) a dedicated poker room. We would also look to add two to three additional restaurants.”

Sugarhouse also needs approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and construction could begin next summer, with completion in fall of 2013.

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio 1060

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