Casinos Opposing Live! Project Appeal To State Supreme Court

The Gaming Control Board’s decision to award a second casino license in Philadelphia has caused an uproar amongst the losing bidders as well as competing casinos who believe that the market is already saturated.

Last month, regulators granted the coveted license to Live! Hotel & Casino, a joint venture between Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, which owns Parx Casino, and Cordish Cos. of Baltimore. Together they will build a sprawling casino complex in the city’s Stadium District, with the expectation that large crowds from sporting events will come to gamble.

Losers fight the board’s decision

The three losing bidders want to put a stop to those plans, and two have filed challenges with the state Supreme Court. A spokesman for Bart Blatstein’s Tower Entertainment LLC said that the winning bidder’s project would violate state law by creating an overlap in ownership with Philadelphia’s Parx Casino.

Regulators “failed to conduct a statutorily required analysis of economic concentration,” he said. “Certain individuals and entities who maintain an ownership interest in Stadium also maintain an ownership interest in Parx, which exceeds the thresholds stated in the Gaming Act,” he added.

A spokesman for another losing applicant, PHL Local Gaming, stated his company’s opinion that Live! was “ineligible to participate in the bid process” in the first place. Awarding the casino license to the Greenwood-Cordish joint venture, he said, violates the state Gaming Act which prohibits monopolies.

He added that PHL would challenge the gaming commission’s decision on the grounds that regulators “blatantly disregarded the Gaming Act as it applied to community support and opposition. Furthermore, “the board seemed to ignore the mandate to ensure minority inclusion as part of the winning bid,” he said.

No room for more casinos

SugarHouse Casino is also in strong opposition to the Live! project, believing that the addition of one more casino to the city will fail to grow the market and result in cannibalization of existing casinos. They claim that the board violated state law when it forced SugarHouse to “present substantial, credible evidence… to support a finding that the market is saturated.”

Industry analysts have also come to the conclusion that a new casino would indeed be harmful to existing competitors. Gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett said that the introduction of more casinos will be a “significant negative” for the state’s current operators. “All they’ve done is create a monopoly for Parx, with one in Bucks County and one in South Philly, which will squeeze out SugarHouse,” said Blatstein.

Others point to the troubles which have befallen casinos in neighboring Atlantic City. This year, four have been shuttered due to competition from casinos in bordering states. The addition of more casinos to the Pennsylvania market could result in a similar oversaturated environment, analysts fear.