Live! Hotel and Casino South Philadelphia

Artist’s rendering of the Live! Hotel and Casino, which won its bid for a license and has plans to be built in the Stadium District of South Philadelphia (Image: planphilly.com)

Live! Hotel & Casino has been awarded Philadelphia’s second casino license.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded the license on Tuesday. A joint project between Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., which owns the Parx Casino in Bensalem, the proposed 200,000-square-foot casino will host 220 hotel rooms, have 2,000 slot machines and 125 table games on the casino floor, and will cost $425 million to build.

The developers propose to put the casino on an existing Holiday Inn in the stadium district of South Philadelphia.

Making the announcement to a packed house at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Control Board praised the “the synergy between gambling and entertainment at a casino” that the project proposed, adding that the proximity to the stadium was a deciding factor.

The Board said it believes that “the more-than-400 stadium area events per year” could create an all-year-round attraction for visitors.

In choosing Live!, the board went for the casino with the lowest revenue projections, but it was also the one that relied least on cannibalizing business from other casinos in and around Philadelphia. In a document filed this week outlining the reasons for its choice, the board said it had tried to “choose a realistic and rightsized applicant, especially in a highly competitive market as in Philadelphia.”

Less Debt Incurred

It also said that the Cordish and Greenwood financial plan was less risky than the others, as the companies are proposing to borrow only half the money required to build the casino, putting up the rest themselves.

“Being rightsized, not overbuilt or heavily laden with debt would ensure that in a competitive gaming market, [Live!] could operate a successful gaming operation and would be in a position to service any debts, make capital improvements, and reinvest in its facility,” the board said.

The three unsuccessful applicants were Tower Entertainment, which proposed a casino called The Provence in North Broad Street; Market East Associates, which wanted to build the Market 8 Casino in Market Street; and PHL Local Gaming, which had high hopes for its Casino Revolution project in South Front Street. The board said it was concerned about traffic chaos in relation to the two Center City applicants.

Market Will Expand

“We’re laying down a lot of money because we know this market will expand,” said Anthony Ricci, chief executive of Greenwood. “We’re not here to just take business from Harrah’s and SugarHouse.”

Joseph S. Weinberg, president of Cordish, said the group was ready to start final design work and initial permitting as soon as possible. “There’s a zoning overlay that anyone would have to get for gaming. We’re confident that that will not be an issue,” Weinberg said. “This will be the only example in the country of having a casino-hotel complex with every major sport represented in terms of baseball, football, basketball, hockey, all in one destination,” he added.

The licensing process began back in July 2012, following the collapse of the Foxwoods project, which initially proposed a casino along the Delaware River, and later in Center City. The new casino is expected to employ about 1,246 workers and generate another 3,000 construction jobs.