Remember when gambling in Philadelphia seemed so quaint?
The 1991 move from then-Mayor Ed Rendell to legalize riverboat gambling? The 2004 bid from then-Gov. Ed Rendell to bring slot machines into the state? The appeals from the gaming gods in 2006 that found Pennsylvania’s gaming board awarding casino licenses to two ownership groups, SugarHouse and Foxwoods? Then the same year that SugarHouse opened and the slots law opened up to table games, (2010), Foxwoods had to balk on the license after its group was unable to get the necessary financing approvals? Good times.
It is into this breach that Baltimore’s Cordish Cos. have entered, announcing that they have taken complete ownership of the project developer, Stadium Casino LLC., and bought out the interest of Stadium’s partner, the peeps at Parx Casino in Bensalem, for the long proposed second Philly casino – Live! Hotel & Casino at the former Holiday Inn at 900 Packer Avenue. Since Stadium had the right to open a casino in Westmoreland County, Cordish will do that project as well, alone.
The Cordish family and its development companies have several Live! projects around the country, such as Texas Live! And Kansas City Live!
Joseph Weinberg, managing director of Stadium Casino LLC (Stadium being an affiliate of The Cordish Companies), and the CEO of Cordish Global Gaming and its Global Cities Entertainment group told regulators at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, last week, that demolition of the former Holiday Inn should begin in December, and that construction of the $700+ million casino and hotel would begin early in 2019, and conclude by 2020, with an opening date of December, 2020 to commence gaming operations.
“The casino will help further the Stadium District as a premier sports and entertainment destination for the region, creating 3,000 direct and indirect construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs,” said Weisberg in a prepared statement. “It will provide visitors to the stadiums and Xfinity Live! another compelling reason to visit the District and spend more time when they do. The existing structure on Packer Avenue will be demolished and replaced by a new, first-class destination hotel, casino and entertainment experience. Accordingly, we have increased our budget for the project to more than $700 million to ensure a truly national-caliber facility for the Philadelphia region to dine, stay and play.”
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board agreed to a two-year extension of the project’s original deadline, and — in gaming speak — we’re off to the races on the future of that second slots parlor. This time though, it’s less of a threat than a promise, as — not only does Cordish have experience developing and fully operating its Live! Casino concepts. They developed the first two Hard Rock Hotels in the U.S. outside the Vegas strip, the two Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, Florida, where many of the New Jersey execs for the Atlantic City Hard Rock originated.
When asked via email what was so attractive about that South Philadelphia property that has sat, untouched, since the Foxwoods failure, Weisberg responded that, “the site for the new Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia is one of the great gaming entertainment locations in the country. Not only is it located directly off I-95 and I-76, two of the highest volume highways in the US, but it is part of an integrated sports, entertainment, gaming and hospitality district already experiencing 8.5 million annual visitors. The Live! Site is major league in every respect.”
Citizens Bank Park, the Lincoln Financial Stadium, the Wells Fargo Center, and Xfinity Live all breathe and play within yards of the proposed new casino and hotel complex. Along with large scale concerts and family entertainments, that complex is the only one in the United States that holds all of its major sports teams — the Eagles, the Flyers, the Phillies and the 76ers — all within a bunt’s length of other, and a field goal away from scores of old-timey gamblers and new school sports betting enthusiasts.
For better or worse.