The first page of the ongoing gambling saga in Pennsylvania drew to a close when the State Gaming Control Commission gave the 5 available standalone slots licenses to certain companies. The loudest cheers came from the citizen’s organization that banded together to voice their opposition to the planned slots parlor in Gettysburg. Although much commercial development has already taken place in the historic battlefield area, it is clear that support for the project will not be coming from inside the community.
Given that the law requires 2 slots licenses to be awarded in Philadelphia and one of them given in Pittsburgh, the identity of this match’s winner is very clear. One is Bethlehem, where the Sands Casino proposed a plan to build a slots casino on the site of the Bethlehem Steel Mill, while the other is in the Pocono Mountain Area, where a local developer will construct a casino on the Mount Airy Lodge landmark site.
In Pittsburgh, the winner of the slots license has a very big part in determining the future of the Penguins Hockey Team. A firm called Isle of Capri promised, with no decisions or special favors, to build a new hockey stadium for the team if they won the slots license, but they were rejected in favor of the proposal made by Don Barden’s casino.
Since Isle of Capri did not win the license, Goveror Ed Rendell created the “Plan B” proposal where Don Barden had already promised that he would give either $7.5 million for 30 years or a new training area for the Penguins. Whether this would be enough to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh remains to be seen. The rejection of the Isle of Capri’s proposal was surprising enough, but casino watchers were shocked that Donald Trump’s casino proposal was also rejected by local officials. Nevertheless, none of this should come as such a surprise since most of the license winners are politically connected.
Richard Sprague, an attorney who represents State Senator, Vince Fumo, was the primary person responsible for one of the successful bids in Philadelphia as was a former state Supreme Court Justice. A casino developer close to the governor is an investor in other Philadelphia slots palaces. The developer for the Mount Airy Lodge bid is a longtime political backer in the state. As the old song goes, “Them that’s got shall get”. Some things never change.