elease of the formal orders triggers a 30-day period during which the losers of casino battles in Pennsylvania would have the right to appeal the awards to the state Supreme Court. The orders will explain why the board selected PITG Gaming in Pittsburgh, SugarHouse Gaming and Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Indian Tribe in Philadelphia, Sands BethWorks Gaming in Bethlehem, and Louis DeNaples in the Poconos for the state’s five stand-alone casino licenses. The board also will issue orders for permanent licenses granted to six racetrack casinos.
Until the formal orders are released and the appeal period exhausted, it’s unlikely that the winners of the stand-alone casinos, including PITG Gaming, will begin construction at any of their sites. They may not want to invest heavily in the work if there is a chance the gaming board award could be overturned on appeal. "We’re continuing to try to move forward as quickly as possible. However, we do realize that the order is a key milestone in the process," PITG Gaming spokesman Bob Oltmanns said.
While awaiting the formal order, PITG Gaming has been meeting with city planners to discuss the casino and has been doing preliminary engineering and architectural work and construction planning, Oltmanns said. "But we cannot put a shovel in the ground until the appeals process has been exhausted," he added. "I think it would be awfully presumptuous on our part to presume this is a forgone conclusion."
The state gaming board awarded the licenses last December 20. At the time, officials said they hoped to issue formal orders in about two weeks. That didn’t happen. At one point, they also had talked about issuing the Pittsburgh order by mid-January. However, gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach said the agency’s lawyers have decided it would be best to release orders for all licenses at the same time, providing a uniform appeal period for everyone.He now expects all orders to be released by the end of the month.
So far, the wait has not affected Barden’s ambitious timetable for opening the Pittsburgh casino, with 3,000 slot machines to start, on the riverfront between Carnegie Science Center and the West End Bridge by March 2008, Oltmanns said.
PITG Gaming competed against Forest City Enterprises and Isle of Capri Casinos for the Pittsburgh license. At this time, Forest City has no plans to appeal, said Abe Naparstek, director of development. Isle of Capri won’t decide until the formal order has been issued, spokeswoman Jill Haynes said. Haynes added that Pennsylvania appears to be unique among states with gambling to set up a formal appeals process as part of a license award.
Christopher Craig, counsel for state Senator Vincent Fumo, one of the architects of the state’s slots law, said the delay in issuing formal orders could cause some difficulty for operators in securing financing until appeals are exhausted. But he did not see any wide-ranging impact.
Likewise, Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, an industry consultant, doesn’t see significant delays resulting from the longer wait for formal orders and a 30-day appeal period. "If anything, having a formal appeals process with a timeline in place probably adds a little more certainty to the process," he said.