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Six Groups Make Pitch For Second Casino License In Philadelphia

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Voters in Pennsylvania believe the state has enough slot machines. (FILE: credit CBS 3)

Voters in Pennsylvania believe the state has enough slot machines. (FILE: credit CBS 3)

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By Steve Tawa and Dan Wing

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The six applicants who are in a spirited competition for a second casino license to be issued in Philadelphia all made their presentations during an all-day hearing on Tuesday before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Most of the groups trotted out a parade of representatives and showed slick videos to present their $400-million to nearly $1-billion projects. Three of them want to locate along Packer Avenue in the Stadium District of South Philadelphia, another touts an 8th and Market Streets location, another wants to transform the former Inquirer Building on North Broad Street and one favors the waterfront in Fishtown.

Las Vegas casino giant Steve Wynn brought his big personality into the Convention Center, promising his won’t be ‘slots in a box.’

“We build hotels that are destinations for people to come that have restaurants and spas, shopping and entertainment,” Wynn said.

His nearly half-hour long presentation used the fewest slides and graphs, although he did use a soundtrack of his friends Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, while showing a brief video of what the rooms would look like in his splashy hotel in a complex on 70-acres above the currently operating Sugarhouse Casino.

Local developer Bart Blatstein believes the nature of his $700-million entertainment complex and its location in the former Inquirer Building, two blocks from the Convention Center, is the superior choice.

“What if Philadelphia would be the first major city in the country that had a true entertainment complex in its core, not just a casino?” Blatstein asked.

The all day session was for glossy presentations, not public comment. Neighbors, community groups and others can provide public feedback at an April 11th hearing. Then, seven members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will drill down further and schedule hearings on each project through late summer and early fall.

Meantime, Casino Free Philadelphia, a group who opposes another gaming facility coming to town, reacted immediately to the presentations.

Spokesman Dan Hajdo says each of the six groups making a pitch failed to address one of Casino Free Philadelphia’s main concerns…how any of these applicants would address gambling addiction?

Hajdo says gambling addiction usually hits middle class families the hardest, something there is no shortage of in Philadelphia.

“The idea that this is somehow going to help the economy is false,” he says, “unless they actually do something about addressing gambling addiction.”

Hajdo adds that none of the groups addressed rising crime rates in areas around the new casino.

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