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Foxwoods Philadelphia Failed, But It Might Succeed Getting Its Money Back

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A federal appeals court has breathed new life into the group behind the failed Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia project’s effort to get back a $50 million licensing fee it once paid the state.

In fact, earlier this month, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling upholding a 2016 US Bankruptcy Court ruling denying the group’s claim. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel is now saying the bankruptcy court made an error.

The case will now be sent back to US District Court. However, it is likely to eventually be remanded back to US Bankruptcy Court.

The Philadelphia casino plan

In December 2006, Pennsylvania issued two licenses for casinos to be built in Philadelphia.

One went to HSP Gaming, LP, which proposed to build SugarHouse Casino along the Delaware River in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Plans were for SugarHouse to open with 3,000 slot machines in April 2008.

However, local residents lined up on both sides, and land issues forced delays. At one point, the city tried to revoke a SugarHouse construction permit. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled all its permits were legal. HSP Gaming, LP finally broke ground in October 2009. The casino opened in September 2010.

The other Philadelphia casino license went to Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners, LP. It planned a 3,000-slot facility in South Philadelphia along the Delaware River dubbed Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia.

One-third of the Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s Foxwoods Development Co. was tapped to run the casino. Initial plans had it opening in November 2008.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is owner and operator of Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. It is the second-largest casino in the US.

The Foxwoods road to failure

The group paid a $50 million licensing fee to the state in 2007. However, neighborhood opposition forced them to move the proposed site for the project to The Gallery at Market East downtown shopping center. Eventually, more difficulties with the downtown location and increased opposition emerged.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn came in as managing partner in February 2010. Wynn came with a plan to move the project back to its original Waterfront location. However, three days after presenting the plan to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Wynn announced his company was withdrawing.

In October of that same year, Harrah’s Entertainment announced plans to buy a one-third stake in the project. Harrah’s also planned to run the casino. Additionally, it wanted to open the facility under its Horseshoe casino brand with 1,500 slots and 70 table games. However, Harrah’s ultimately missed a deadline for signing an agreement to take over. In the end, Harrah’s walked away.

There was no other financing in place. Moreover, the group missed a series of deadlines for submitting plans and financial information. Ultimately, in December 2010, the gaming board revoked the Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners casino license.

The group unsuccessfully appealed the board’s decision to revoke the license, and it went up for auction.

The new Stadium Casino

Stadium Casino, LLC successfully bid for the license in November 2014. It is a partnership between Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, owners of the state’s highest-grossing gambling complex, Parx Casino and Racing, and Cordish Companies, which runs the Live!-branded casinos, hotels, and entertainment venues across the country. It planned a $600 million gambling and entertainment complex project in South Philadelphia’s Stadium District.

However, SugarHouse and others opposed the project and it spent the next three years stuck in court. Opponents claimed Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment owner Bob Manoukian’s interest in Parx prohibited him from owning more than a one-third of another Pennsylvania casino.

However, the state repealed those casino ownership laws as a part of its new gambling expansion laws passed in October 2017. All opposition went away and after a re-branding, the Philadelphia Live! Hotel and Casino project became Stadium Casino. Developers are now moving forward with a plan to open up in 2020.

The new casino and hotel project will feature a 100,000 square-foot casino with 2,000 slot machines and 150 table games attached to a 240-room boutique hotel. Plus, it will include a 30-table-plus poker room.

Construction is going forward on a site in close proximity to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wells Fargo Center arena, and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park.

Marty Derbyshire

About

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.