Slots proposed for Valley Forge

May 20, 2008 4:06:09 PM PDT
The aging Valley Forge Convention Center is in line for a 100-million dollar makeover. And today, investors pitched a plan to add a slots parlor to the project. Business leaders love it and locals seem to like the idea, too. You come to King of Prussia to shop, or to Valley Forge to enjoy the historical park. But something is missing and the people who run the Valley Forge Convention Center hope 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week slot machine gambling is what you're looking for.

"For us to stay competitive, this would be a tremendous amenity for our property, said Ira Lubert of the Valley Forge Convention Center, one of three groups vying for two resort casino licenses. Valley Forge wants to fill a corner of their exhibit hall with a circular bar surrounded by 500 slot machines. It's smaller than other casinos but it is still projected to add $1.5 million to the tax coffers of Upper Merion Township.

Despite qualms about parking, the township has given the plan it's blessing.

"We are optimistic that the owners have a well thought-out plan," says Upper Merion township supervisor Ed McBride. Only one resident spoke against the casino plan today.

"Gambling is a problem for many people. The township can do better," said Upper Merion resident Frank Freudberg.

Opponents say more people would have argued against the slot plan if they were aware of the proposed deal. They claim it has flown largely under the radar.

A quick sampling outside the township building found residents saying they knew little about gambling coming to their town.

"I would like to see more discussion. The amount of traffic in the area is ridiculous," says Upper Merion resident Bob Valenti.

The convention center says a traffic study shows a casino would not add to existing problems.

"The types of conventions we are envisioning would be smaller and more upscale, so we do not anticipate any significant increase in traffic," said Kenneth Kochenour of G.F. Management.

A final decision on the gambling license may still be several months away.