The long-delayed second Philadelphia casino is one step closer to breaking ground after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) voted unanimously that the financial backers behind the proposed resort are in full compliance with the state’s Gaming Act.
The issue at hand is whether businessman Bob Manoukian, who owns a controlling 86 percent stake in Parx Casino, 20 miles north of Philly, is allowed to be financially involved in a second gambling facility.
Philadelphia’s other downtown casino, SugarHouse, has been leading the legal challenge to block the project, claiming Manoukian’s involvement violates state law that mandates, “No slot machine licensee, its affiliate, intermediary, subsidiary or holding company possess ownership or financial interest that is greater than 33.3 percent of another gambling venue.”
The PGCB ruled that Manoukian won’t actually be an owner, as he told the board that he’s putting his millions of dollars into a trust controlled by his sons that will be used for the development.
Stadium Casino LLC, a joint partnership between Manoukian’s Greenwood Racing and Maryland-based Cordish Companies, owners of the Live! brand, are trying to build the second Philadelphia casino on a nine-acre plot of land near the Philadelphia Sports Complex. It’s set to be known as Live! Philadelphia.
More Appeals Ahead?
Stadium Casino was awarded its license by the PGCB way back in November of 2014, but SugarHouse, along with a losing bidder, have stopped its construction by filing one appeal after another.
The case reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which partially ruled on the plaintiff’s side and directed the gaming board to further investigate. It did, which brings us to this week’s ruling.
While the PGCB’s unanimous 7-0 vote in favor of Stadium is a win for the project, SugarHouse can appeal the judgement back to the high court for a final verdict.
If the plaintiff opts to end its legal battle, the $400 million resort would almost certainly receive its official gambling license from the PGCB.
Good for State
Pennsylvania lawmakers are currently trying to come up with $2.2 billion to fund its $32 billion budget it passed last month. Numerous gambling expansion ideas have been floated around by the Republican-controlled legislature to generate new forms of revenue without raising taxes.
If the Live! Philadelphia license is issued in 2017, it would deliver a one-time payment of $75 million to the state. Not $2.2 billion, but every bit helps to bring the budget closer to being whole.
Cordish and Mamoukian’s interest in continuing to pursue the large investment might come as a surprise to some, as considerations to put slot machines and video gaming terminals in airports and bars, legalize online gaming and daily fantasy sports, and potentially allow smaller satellite casinos to be built throughout the state are topics being debated in the capital.
Some of Pennsylvania’s other 12 land-based casino owners have expressed opposition to such measures, saying they’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Keystone State, and expansion would poach from their operations.