PA Gambling Board Awards Philly Casino License To Live!

Philadelphia gambling regulators have awarded Eastern Pennsylvania’s last available casino license to Live! Hotel & Casino.

Live! is a joint venture between Cordish Cos., which runs the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland, and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., which owns Parx Casino and Racing near Bensalem, Philadelphia.

The Live! project beat out four others, and will be built near several of the state’s major stadiums, including Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Once finished, the complex will boast 2,000 slot machines, 125 table games, and feature a hotel with 240 rooms and 2,500 parking spaces. Construction is expected to begin within the next eight months, with the facility opening its doors in 15 to 18 months.

For the privilege of operating its casino in the city, the owners will pony up $75 million in licensing fees for the slot machines and table games. If all goes well, the casino could be making around $344 million in pretax revenue in its fifth year, according to Live! executives.

Of all of the projects pitched to Philadelphia regulators, the $400 million Live! was not the most expensive. The most lavish facility presented to the gaming board was the $700 million Provence concept, which would have been built in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News tower north of downtown. Backed by two established gaming companies, the board found the Live! project to be the most likely to turn a consistent profit.

After a unanimous vote, the board stated that it fell optimistic about the “synergy” which could be created between fans attending events at the stadiums and the casino. Placing a gambling venue in the area would furthermore turn the district into a year-round attraction, the gaming board said.

Is there a need for more?

Some opponents of the project believe that the market has already become saturated and that adding another casino will only result in a recycling of current customers. They point to the recent closure of four casinos in Atlantic City, and the decline in Pennsylvania casinos’ slot revenue as evidence of that fact.

Live! executives disagree though, and still think that there is more room to grow. “There will be some cannibalization, but I think the market will expand generally,” said Greenwood Chairman Bob Greene. “We believe that there is a significant untapped source of revenue” in the Philadelphia Stadium District.