Trump sues to get 2nd shot at Pa. casino license

December 18, 2008 6:18:40 PM PST
Donald Trump's casino company on Thursday filed suit in federal court to get another shot at a potentially lucrative slot-machine license in Philadelphia. The lawsuit filed in Harrisburg by Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. names members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and says their rationale for rejecting Trump's application violated the company's constitutional rights to equal protection and to conduct interstate commerce.

The suit is the first in federal court over the slots-only casino licenses the gaming board awarded to 11 applicants in 2006. Trump's company was rejected in its bid for one of two licenses earmarked for Philadelphia. Political opposition to the location of the winning casino projects has stalled construction and kept Philadelphia from becoming the nation's largest city with casinos.

In the lawsuit, Trump asks the court to stop the gaming board from allowing the two Philadelphia projects that won casino licenses from being built and opening. It also says it plans to file paperwork with the gaming board asking it to rescind the Philadelphia licenses, and allow a new round of applications to compete for them.

The long delays that have stymied the current casino projects in Philadelphia will be an issue in the litigation.

"Our argument is going to be that the public interest in Pennsylvania, which is jobs and taxes, is sitting there unfulfilled and the board should take action to make those things go forward sooner," said Trump lawyer Bob Pickus.

The gaming board issued a statement from a lawyer, saying the agency had not seen the suit Thursday afternoon and could not comment on it.

The lawyer, R. Douglas Sherman, noted that the state Supreme Court already has rejected appeals to the gaming board's decisions and found them "both lawful and supported by the evidence."

Trump's company says the constitutional violations occurred when the gaming board gave it a negative mark over the three casinos the company owns in Atlantic City, N.J. The suit cites the gaming board's references to concerns that a Trump casino in Philadelphia would divert gamblers to casinos it owns in Atlantic City, where taxes are lower.

"The board finds it credible that owners of casinos in both locations may attempt to use the Philadelphia property as a gambling-incubator to gain new customers who will then be lured to its Atlantic City properties where it can earn a much larger profit on every dollar gambled," the gaming board wrote in its February 2007 rationale that backed up its licensing decisions.

"Likewise, the board finds applicants without Atlantic City connections are more strongly motivated to compete directly against the Atlantic City competition because they have no interest in diverting patrons to the casino which has a better tax structure for the casino," it said.

The winners of the Philadelphia licenses are a group led by the Connecticut-based Indian tribe that owns Foxwoods Casino and a group led by billionaire Chicago developer Neil G. Bluhm. Neither own a casino interest in Atlantic City.


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