The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked the license for the proposed South Philly casino (formerly known as Foxwoods Casino), after investor asked â yet again â for an extention to find financing.
The decision does not, however, mean that the state has decided against building a second casino in Philadelphia, as directed by Act 71, the 2004 surprise legislation that legalized casinos in Pennsylvania in a single late-night session.
The Board will, presumably, seek new proposals for a new casino. This news comes, however, amid surprisingly low performance by Sugarhouse Casino, which saw a drastic decline in revenue after opening and has been significantly below state goals â all raising the question of whether the proliferation of casinos has reached a saturation point.
Casino Free Philadelphia, a grassroots organization that opposes casinos in the city, issued the following statement via email:
We know the fight is not over. Assuming the Foxwoods revocation stands, the PGCB will now seek to solicit new bids from other companies for a second casino in Philadelphia. We'll continue to fight against a casino anywhere in the city.
Our objective now is to prevent the casino rebidding process from taking place -- all while keeping pressure on SugarHouse through our Casino Town Watch, exposing the casino's predatory tactics and making clear the community opposition any casino in Philadelphia will face.
Of course you've been waiting, as we have, with near-uncontrollable anticipation for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's annual "Diversity Report" â and finally, it's out.
It contains various tidbits of interesting info the fact, for example that Harrah's Chester, nestled in an almost all-black city has managed to get away with not disclosing information regarding the diversity of its workforce for a second year in a row
Nonetheless, says the report, "The Diversity Officer is of the opinion that the entity has engaged in a good faith effort to promote and ensure diversity in its operations."
Who needs numbers when you've got opinions?
But one piece of info missing this year is a figure we found most interesting last year: the annual turnover rate of casino employees, which seemed, at the time, surprisingly high:
According to the 2008 Diversity Report, employee turnover ranged from 24%-66% â in other words, some casinos saw more than half their employees gone within a year of being hired.
PGCB spokesman Richard McGarvey told CP in an email that while the PGCB did not include those figures this time around, "There has been no significant change in the turnover rate from the 2008 report to this report."
Anyone out there work at a PA casino, or know someone who does? Do these seemingly-high turnover rates ring true and, if so, what's behind them?
|Casino-related child abandonment: the Simpsons saw it coming (S05E10, 1993)|
As casino gambling in Pennsylvania amps up, so too, apparently, do instances of parents leaving children unattended - sometimes for hours - in casino parking lots while they gamble.
It's happened â that is, the parents have been caught â at least five times in the last two months at Parx casino alone. In one case, a man left a 15-month baby in a running car.
Most recently, Sharon Belek, 35:
... was charged Thursday with child endangerment for leaving her 8- and 15-year old daughters in the parking lot on Aug. 1 while she played the slot machines - for six hours.
The teenage daughter - stuck with a nonworking cell phone - flagged down a passerby at about 12:30 a.m. and borrowed a phone to call her father.
Enter the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which announced at a meeting this month its displeasure with the instances of child abandonment.
The Board might have used this as an opportunity to reexamine how much of casino activity is, in fact, what most of us would consider problem or compulsive gambling (a prominent study suggests as much as two-thirds).
But that would be, well, un-Board-like. The PGCB, after all, has the dual mission of regulating gambling on the one hand and ensuring its profitibility and success on the other.
Instead, the Board focused on parking lot security â which is well and good â but not, Parx claims, its responsibility.
Parx is apparently only responsible according to state law for security inside its facility. And so the casino pointed its finger, in turn, at local police, who, in turn, said they cannot patrol Parx' 7,000-car lot.
Commented Bensalem public safety chief Fred Harran:
"We've had calls through the years with kids left in shopping center, but what's making this hot is that we've had five in just a two-month period," said Fred Harran, public safety director in Bensalem. "The gambling addiction, the glitter of it all, people go into gamble and forget the kids. I just don't get it."
It's a revealing statement, and one of the first times we've seen public officials come out and say that casinos are attracting (perhaps creating?) addicts.
While the Gaming Board and casinos try to figure out how to make this ugly little problemo disappear, maybe the rest of us ought to start asking if the problem isn't so much what's happening in casino parking lots as inside slot parlors.
|Evan M. Lopez|
The Inquirer's tireless Jennifer Lin reports today that the key players for the theoretical Foxwoods' casino Ronald Rubin and Lewis Katz have only recently submitted to the kind of rigorous investigation required (in theory, at least this reporter raiseth the ol' eyebrow) of prospective casino owners to be licensed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Three and a half years after authorizing the Foxwoods Casino project on the South Philadelphia waterfront, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is only beginning the process of licensing one key player in the proposed gaming hall and determining the need to license a second.
[. . .]
The action comes even as lawyers for the gaming board build a case to revoke the $50 million license on the overall project. The Foxwoods group currently has no construction plan, no financing, and - with Las Vegas gambling tycoon Steve Wynn's sudden pullout in April - no operator.
How exactly did the Foxwoods investors manage to go so long without having to submit to investigation? How, exactly, did the Gaming Board fail to notify them just now that they'd be performing such an investigation? Are these investors, as Rep. Curt Schroder recently asked PGCB Chairman Gregory Fajt, using family foundations as "straw men" to hide their direct involvement in the project?
Oh, and one more question: How much sleazier does this project have to get before Foxwoods' investors get the boot?
Breaking: Gaming Board's Director of Compulsive and Problem Gambling apparently now working for casino
When the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hired gaming lawyer (and Rutgers professor of casino law) Nanette Horner, they sent out a press release about it.
When Horner was chosen to play a "key role" in the "Responsible Gaming Committee" of an international gaming law body, the PGCB sent out a press release.
But when Horner left the agency, and her job overseeing the state's problem gambling programs, apparently to work for casino company Empire Resorts, last week well, you won't find any press release on their site about that.
Indeed, the PGCB website has deleted the page that once contained Horner's biography. Luckily, it's still available on Google Cache, and testifies to Horner's long career associations with the gambling industry. Her background gambling law does not appear to include experience as a therapist, counselor, or specialist in problem gambling.
While state regulations do prohibit at least some PGCB board members from working for "licensed entities," PGCB spokesman Richard McGarvey, who confirmed Horner's departure, pointed out that he believes she will be working for Empire Resorts, a New York company (not licensed, in other words, by the PGCB) which owns and operates Monticello Casino & Raceway in Monticello, New York.
We'll take a closer look at Horner's legacy and the current state of resources and initiatives to stop problem and compulsive gambling soon.
In the meantime, it's worth asking: Is this an example of the closeness between the Gaming Board, which is supposed to regulate the gambling industry, and the industry itself? And, if so, can someone so close to the gambling industry be trusted to help prevent and stop problem gambling when prominent studies indicate problem gambling as the main source of casinos' profits in the first place?
Dept of non-surprises: PA House Democrats to push again for slot machines in bars ... and lottery providers!
|Photo | Isaiah Thompson|
|It's "entertainment," babe: coming to a bar near you. (He sure looks happy).|
You know what natural gas and gamblers have in common?
Our elected officials will as dig deep, and at whatever cost to society, to exploit both as long as they can subsidize a tax here, or line a local slush fund there.
The difference? You can't can't make oil from scratch. Gamblers, on the other hand, can be created.
About a week ago (in a move that's received virtually no press, anywhere), Pennsylvania House Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fayette) announced that he will be introducing legislation to legalize "video poker" games in Pennsylvania, resurrecting a push last year to let every no, I need capital letters for this EVERY BAR IN THE STATE to host up to five "video poker" machines (slot machines, that is).
He is also calling and this hasn't been reported anywhere for slot machines to be allowed at places where lottery tickets are sold. Pro-gambling officials will deny that video poker machines are substantively different from slot machines. They are misinformed, as well as misleading the public, and I challenge any supporter of this legislation to prove otherwise.
The Fayette County lawmaker said clubs would be able to operate up to seven machines, licensed liquor establishment such as taverns and restaurants could operate up to five, and lottery sales agents could operate up to three machines. Machines operated by lottery sales agents would have to be located outside the general public's view and not accessible to people under age 21.
Mahoney said under his measure, the state could impose a maximum $1,000-per-year licensing fee per video poker machine. From that amount, $100 would go to the host municipality, $100 to the host school district and $50 to a nonprofit or community organization of the licensee's selection. Groups eligible for the $50-per-year funding would include fire and police departments, libraries and other nonprofit organizations.
The remainder of the licensing fee would be placed in the state's General Fund.
Think about it: slot machines in every bar in the state. That's as many as 60,000 or more new slot machines in Pennsylvania. The impact not just on gamblers, but on gamblers-to-be, on the down-and-out, and even on people who don't and will never gamble is hard to imagine. These slots won't even be at casinos. They'll be in our bars, right in our neighborhoods.
This isn't just some new law. It's a fundamental transformation of the nature of this state. It's Vegas, baby.
Mahoney, of course, is simply acting as the conduit of a plan long in the works. The casinos having won most of the favors they wanted, the state's powerful bar and tavern lobby (the PA Tavern Association) feels like it's their turn.
But this proposal to allow slots with lottery ticket sales? That's new.
Note the requirement that "Machines operated by lottery sales agents would have to be located outside the general public's view."
That's presumably supposed to be for the protection of the "general public" yet it also "protects" the gambler, doesn't it: from having to stop gambling, from being seen, from being interrupted by external stimuli (slot machines are designed to draw the player into a state of mind in which they will not stop playing until they're broke).
And it protects the gambling industry from being seen for what it is: predatory.
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