3 weeks until Philly casino application deadline

October 24, 2012 8:52:45 PM PDT
Pennsylvania's gambling board on Wednesday reminded developers there are three weeks before the Nov. 15 deadline to submit applications for Philadelphia's second casino license.

In July, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced it would start accepting applications and not wait any longer for the Legislature to decide whether to open up the bidding statewide, an alternative that had been supported by some legislators. The board on Wednesday reminded potential applicants that they must have completed applications submitted to the Harrisburg office if they want to be considered.

Gambling regulators will not say how many applications have been submitted.

One, real estate developer Bart Blatstein, unveiled a proposal Wednesday night for a $700 million project that would include a casino in the former headquarters of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News as well as a 125-room hotel, "a rooftop shopping and dining village," a theater, spa and fitness center, nightclub and other entertainment venues and two parking garages. Several other groups have previously expressed interest in the license as well.

After successfully revitalizing Northern Liberties with the Piazza, developer Bart Blatstein turned his attention to Center City.

For some time, Blatstein felt Philadelphia needed more nightlife, and if he gets his way, that will all change with his plans to transform the old home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News into a huge casino resort and entertainment complex that would stretch over three blocks.

At a launch party with a number of the city's movers and shakers, Bart Blatstein, President and CEO of Tower Investments announced his latest gem.

"I'd like to introduce you to The Provence," Blatstein announced.

Monitors displayed a high-definition animation of the spectacular resort and casino complex which would stretch three blocks from Broad to 16th Street.

The proposed project would convert the newspapers' iconic tower into a 125 room hotel. The old newsroom would be converted into a large casino, the rooftop would feature two blocks of restaurants and shops. There would also be a comedy theater and a French garden.

"It's a world class resort, entertainment resort and that's what we need here, we need more nightlife," said Blatstein.

The architect, Paul Steelman, borrowed largely from French architecture in his design.

"The Louvre of course and Philadelphia and French architecture all go together. It's an absolutely gorgeous, environmentally sensitive piece of architecture," said Steelman.

The development would be managed by Hard Rock Caf? International which was being courted by other developers.

"I think that when you look at the land that has been assembled, an historic building in the Inquirer building would be revitalized and energized, that made our process very simple in order to go with Bart Blatstein and his team," said James Allen.

The announcement comes in the midst of a heated debate as to whether the city needs a second casino.

Some argue the regions already saturated. Parl Boni of the group "Stop Predatory Gambling" is against it.

"We don't want casinos in this city," said Boni. "I think a recent poll has said that, and certainly not a second casino. We believe it is a predatory business model which preys on addiction and human weakness."

Blatstein is one of several seeking to gain the second casino license. They all have to submit their proposals to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board by November 15th.

The board will announce a period of public comment and public hearings will be scheduled, Ryan said.

The 2004 state gambling law calls for two casinos in Philadelphia, one of which, Sugarhouse Casino, is up and running. The gambling board revoked the second license for a long-stalled Foxwoods project in 2010. That project ran into funding problems and other issues and never got off the ground.

Pennsylvania, which legalized casino gambling in 2004, currently has 11 casinos. Four are in the Philadelphia region: Sugarhouse in the city, Parx Casino in the northern suburbs, Harrah's Philadelphia in the city of Chester and Valley Forge Casino Resort to the west.

The winner would be selected sometime next year.

If approved, Blatstein says his project could be up and running in 22 months, creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city of Philadelphia.


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