International edition
June 22, 2021

Which had demanded information by yesterday's deadline

Gaming board rejects Steve Wynn's casino plan in South Philadelphia for now

(US).- Las Vegas gaming mogul Steve Wynn told the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board yesterday that he had the money, vision and desire to build a us$ 600 million casino in South Philadelphia - but not the specifics of its financing or design.

M

aking his first public appearance as the potential new face of Foxwoods Casino, Wynn offered oral descriptions of what he could do for the stalled project. That, however, was not good enough for the board, which had demanded that information by yesterday's deadline.

The seven members voted unanimously to continue to fine the Foxwoods group $2,000 a day until Wynn and the original investors produce documents detailing how the casino would be paid for, how it would look, and how long it would take to build.

The financing information must be presented by March 31; the architectural drawings and construction timetable are due April 26. At an April 29 hearing, the board will reassess the sanctions.

Gregory Fajt, board chairman, said Wynn had given members "some glimmer of hope" that he might come up with a viable plan for the project - though not enough to overcome lingering concerns. "I'm getting more comfortable with this," Fajt said, but added, "We'll take this one step at a time."

Ken Trujillo, a new member and former Philadelphia city solicitor, said he had "very grave concerns that this change of control can or will ever occur." Wynn's testimony, he said, produced "more questions than answers."

Arriving at the Keystone Building in the morning, Wynn got a Philadelphia welcome: whistles and cheers from union tradesmen hoping for jobs, and protests from anti-gaming activists.

On January 27, the gaming board fined Foxwoods us$ 186,000 and threatened to revoke its license for repeatedly missing deadlines. Last week, Wynn Resorts Ltd. came forward to salvage the foundering project.

The company signed a "term sheet" with the Foxwoods group to assume a 51 % stake in the casino and manage it. Under the original plan, it was to be run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the flagship Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

When the project won one of two slots licenses for Philadelphia in 2006, the tribe had a 30 % stake. The remaining 70 % was held by 12 investors, including family charities for Center City developer Ron Rubin, New Jersey sports-team owner Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. Under the new arrangement, those charities would get just 21 percent of the casino's profit. "We believe the Wynn transaction is the solution," said Fred Jacoby, an attorney for Foxwoods.

Wynn testified that his agreement was nonbinding and based on three conditions: The gaming board must approve him for a license, it must extend the deadline for opening the casino from May 2011 to December 2012, and the city must issue a building permit.

Matt Maddox, chief financial officer of Wynn Resorts, said the company would put up about 40 5of the cost of the project - about us$ 250 million - with banks providing the rest in the form of a mortgage. Maddox said the publicly traded company had a solid balance sheet, with us$ 2 billion in cash.

In a week, Wynn said, he will apply for a license for himself as a casino operator. The Foxwoods group, meanwhile, will apply for a change in control of the project by the end of the month, Jacoby said. Should regulators decide to revoke the license of the current investor group, Wynn would try to get one on his own, he told reporters after the hearing.

Wynn also said his view of Pennsylvania gaming changed when the General Assembly approved table games in January. He explained that because the state taxes slots revenue at 55 %, the only feasible casino would be a "slots-in-a-box." The state's new tax on table-game revenue is 14 %.

His casino would improve the Delaware River waterfront, Wynn said. Describing the area as "horribly ugly," he said, "We have the opportunity to do something lovely." On Tuesday night, he had walked around the 16-acre Foxwoods tract on Columbus Boulevard. "You couldn't do any more damage," he said. "This whole Penn's Landing fiction is hysterically funny . . . that Penn's Landing is somehow a recreation area."

The site, between Tasker and Reed Streets, is one of the few open spots in the Delaware River commercial corridor and sits close to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Ikea. A two-year process to create a new civic vision for the waterfront - commissioned by former Mayor John F. Street, financed by the city, and endorsed by Mayor Nutter after community meetings - concluded in 2008 that the area should have more public access and no big-box buildings. While he did not present regulators with drawings, Wynn painted a word picture for them.

The casino would have a portico-like entrance rising 12 feet above street level, he said. The casino floor would be designed around an atrium, with slots and table games on one level; a banquet hall, meeting rooms, and a nightclub with a view of the Delaware would be on a second level. In the middle of the first floor would be a sports bar.

The front would undulate under a continuous skin. Flanking the casino would be parking structures, with no surface parking. Wynn said he planned to adopt design elements from his Encore at Wynn Macau, to open this year. That hotel has a marble facade with brass trim and canopies.

To deal with heavy casino traffic, Wynn suggests adding lanes to Tasker and Reed, along the property's north and south boundaries. Drivers could turn into the casino, he said, without causing congestion on Columbus Boulevard.

Wynn said he had hired the Keating Group, which is building the SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown and Northern Liberties, to develop the casino. Construction could begin in six months, he said, and last 14 months. When open, he added, it should employ 2,000 full-time workers. "No ifs, ands, or buts," he said, "we know exactly what we want to do."

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