Thursday, May 03, 2012

Casino Redux?


 Anyone who thinks the casino at Gettysburg is a dead issue doesn’t know David Levan.

Well, here we go again. By a 140-48 vote, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill which would remove the dedicated casino license from Philadelphia [unused, but held by Foxwoods], and auction it off state-wide with bidding starting at $65 million. Be prepared Gettysburg. Once David Levan is unencumbered from the strictures of his contract with Joe Lashinger, he will most assuredly attempt again to build a casino near the Gettysburg Battlefield…on it if he could.

The good news is, that there is no way possible for him to get the project up and running in time for next year’s 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg, when upwards of 3-4 million visitors are expected. [We had a taste of that back in 1998 when the 135th Anniversary was celebrated close on the heels of the release of the movie Gettysburg. The Battlefield was literally gridlocked, with virtually no vehicular movement going on at all for hours during the day, and late night trespassers were a problem despite barricaded park roads. The shops in town were open all night long as uniformed re-enactors swarmed the streets like sailors on liberty.]

What the General Assembly is looking at is the virtual gap between the casino at Valley Forge and the one being built at Nemacolin Resort near Fort Necessity in southwestern Pennsylvania. There is only one casino in that gap, and that is the Hollywood Casino north of Harrisburg at Penn National Racecourse.

Fortunately for Gettysburg, the bill still has to pass the Senate and the Senate has a few built in obstacles. First, the Philadelphia Caucus is foaming at the mouth at the potential loss of one of their dedicated licenses, a license they did little to get up and running when the holder, Foxwoods, stalled the project. [Owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Tribe in Connecticut, Foxwoods added MGM Mirage to their investors and built an MGM Grand hotel and casino on their Connecticut casino property just before the economy went south.]  In Philadelphia, Foxwoods fumbled with real estate problems, developer problems [the various construction unions in Philadelphia have quite a reputation], and a strong anti-casino presence. There was also the matter of financial miscalculations by the corporation and the bad timing of it when the economic slowdown hit the nation as a whole a few years back.  As a result, the second casino license in Philadelphia remains unused. The other license went to Sugarhouse Casino, which is up and running. Parx Casino is a racecourse casino and is located outside of Philadelphia at Philadelphia Park Racecourse.

Second, there is thought in the General Assembly that the entire Pennsylvania market is saturated to the point that there would be no increase in state revenues from another casino. That view has a pretty strong following. Additional considerations against a second mid-state casino lie in Maryland and West Virginia, where casinos are likely coming to places like Charlestown Racecourse [about an an hour drive from Gettysburg in West Virginia], which has the added attraction of horse racing, and a potential casino in Frederick, Maryland, even closer to Gettysburg.  Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse north of Harrisburg is about 90 minutes from Gettysburg.

Finally, there is legislation pending in the General Assembly that would prevent a casino from being built within 10 miles of the Gettysburg Battlefield and the same distance from the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County.

If a new casino is to be built in the mid-state region, it would almost have to be built upstate. We suspect cooler heads will prevail, and perhaps the Philadelphia caucus of the state legislature [NEVER underestimate their power!] will keep the license in Philadelphia. However, that would put 5 casinos in the city and suburbs: Parx, Sugarhouse, Harrah’s at the new sulky racecourse in Chester, the casino at Valley Forge, and the Foxwoods license, the fate of which is in the air. Philadelphia is a big city and its suburbs have grown over the past decades, but we don’t think it can support that many casinos, especially with Atlantic City casinos undergoing some revitalization 90 minutes away.

This is going to be a big fight, whatever the General Assembly decides, and that means tons of money coming into the state from the gambling industry lobbyists. If the license is made available, there will be an auction or a lottery for it, and certainly Levan would make a try for it, IF…he is unencumbered from his contract obligations with Lashinger, and IF…he found another very big investor. He may not wish to be in that situation as then he would only be the local front man, and would not be the one calling the shots. That’s not his style.  However...

Anyone who thinks the casino at Gettysburg is a dead issue doesn’t know David Levan.

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1 comment:

GettysBLOG said...

Yesterday, the State House passed State "Representative Curt Schroder’s (R-Chester) bill that removes the mandate that the remaining Class 2 (no horses) license to be located in Philadelphia and instead go to the location that provides the maximum revenue for the state. The bill calls for the license to be auctioned off with the bids to start at $66.5 million. Also included in the bill was an amendment that was passed unanimously to increase the table game tax from 12 to 14 percent and dedicate 2 percent for property tax relief."



and



"Reported slot machine revenue in April was $214.1 million, 1.3% higher than revenue produced last April by casinos. According to the monthly report posted today on the Board’s web site, www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov, this April’s gross revenue at the 11 operating casinos from slot machine play was $214,149,502 compared to $211,390,229 of gross revenue in April 2011."

Both quotes from HarrisburgOnline, 5/3/2012

http://www.greenleepartners.com/harrisburg-online/