Six Applicants Fail to Address the Public Interest

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board seems to have come a long way since they first awarded casino licenses in 2006. Casino-Free Philadelphia and our allies have worked hard to make them move.

Yesterday, February 12th, the PGCB convened a meeting at the convention center so that the public could “obtain accurate information” from the six applicants for Philadelphia’s second casino well before the public input hearings in April, said the chair, William Ryan. That information would include community concerns, he added, including traffic, crime and compulsive gambling.

Yes, that’s right. The board actually held this meeting in Philadelphia. They actually said they wanted to give the public time to review proposals. They actually acknowledged that their purpose is to serve the public interest and that the public interest includes concerns about gambling addiction.

They’ve come a long way. But not far enough.

If the PGCB truly intended the six applicants to provide valuable information on their proposals, then those applicants did not seem to get the message.

A few hardy volunteers attended every minute of every one of those presentations. What we endured was five and a half hours of commercials. Fanciest hotel! Swankiest nightclubs! Ritziest restaurants! And, oh yeah a casino’s in there too but hey: Ritziest restaurants!

We don’t care, and neither should the PGCB. Promises for delivering restaurants and nightclubs tells us nothing about how their proposed casino would affect the city we live in.

Despite Chairman Ryan’s suggestion, there was barely a mention of crime and security. There was one mention, by PHL Local Gaming of consultation with neighborhood groups (congratulations, Whitman Neighbors!). And not a single applicant mentioned compulsive gambling or its plan to address it — a plan which is required as part of their application, by the way. Not one word.

We had a few questions that we would have liked answered. Questions like these:

  • What is your plan to protect people from gambling addiction? How will you guarantee it is carried out?
  • Do you guarantee to have an independent, certified gambling addiction counselor available 24/7 on-site at all times that the casino is open?
  • Do you guarantee to limit your business hours, so that addicted gamblers could have a chance to break their pattern?
  • Will you have a non-smoking gambling floor, so that addicted gamblers who take a smoke break can think about what they’re doing?
  • Will you eliminate in-casino lending (quicksand credit), or at least limit it to smaller amounts and/or to regular business hours?
  • Can the public or community organizations look at your entire, final application? If it is not ready, when will it be ready, final, and public?

At this past February 12th PGCB event we passed out hundreds of fliers with these questions, and more, on them. Of course, there was no Q&A at the session, but the applicants and the gaming board are on notice that we insist on answers.

We certainly didn't get any at the event.

We do. however, have to give Steve Wynn credit for offering some accurate information to the press if not during his presentation.

"They [the PGCB] don't have to issue the license, but in order not to,” Wynn told Roxbury News, “they have to find that none of the applicants are qualified, they have to make an affirmative finding of non-qualification …”

The question is what exactly are the qualifications?

If consideration of the public interest is one of them, none of the proposals appear to be suitable.

So we’ll be watching, and acting, to hold the PGCB accountable.

 

Stay tuned for more on what is in these six applicants proposals;

and, more importantly it seems, what is not in them.