Did Philadelphia casino applicant pay for supporters?

April 11, 2013 3:41:58 PM PDT
The Pennsylvania State Gaming Commission held its second round of hearings and presentations on Thursday to determine just who will get the final gaming license in Philadelphia.

The purpose of the hearing, held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, was to gather public input before deciding on which of six proposals will get one license.

But, it appeared the group behind one proposal was trying to stack the deck.

"When I came down here they gave us a t-shirt, yes," said Myron Davis of West Oak Lane. When asked if he was paid to be there, he said "Yes," adding he was getting $50 for every two hours.

Indeed, the Gaming Control Board faced a sea of white t-shirts. Many of the people wearing them say they are unemployed and were rounded up at a social services agency called Impact Philadelphia.

"It helps people who came out from incarceration to try and find an opportunity for jobs and employment," said Francisco Delarosa of Port Richmond.

The t-shirts were supplied by Philly Local Gaming LLC, the people behind the Revolution Casino proposal.

When Walter Lomax of the Philly Local Gaming LLC was asked why he paid people to be there, he said "We didn't pay anybody to be here. We own a radio station, WRD, and there's been a lot of conversation on the radio station about it."

"I didn't pay them. We have a P.R. person that probably arranged it," said Joseph Procacci, the CEO of Philly Local Gaming LLC.

Action News later got a call from the group's public relations firm claiming the people who came to show support were paid only $25 for transportation and meals.

Other casino bidders say they may have supporters here, but they didn't have to pay anyone.

"We don't have to that. The story itself, the substance of the story, the merits of the story, is too compelling for us to have to do anything that's, you know, artificial," said Ken Goldenburgh of the Market 8 Casino plan.

"A lot of people on our site weren't brought down here. They came down on their own," said developer Bart Blatstein, also behind the Provence Casino plan.

It's a high stakes gamble for the license applicants and they're all in. In the end, the Control Board says its decision will be based on the merits, not how many people in white t-shirts show up.

"There's certainly a lot of him here, yeah," said Bill Ryan, Chairman of the Pa. Gaming Control Board. When asked if the people in t-shirts would impact the decision, Ryan said "With all due respect, I don't think so."

The public will have a chance to argue for or against any or all of the proposals here again on Friday from 9am to 3pm. The applicants themselves will make their pitches a few months from now.