[toc]There were a few hiccups and a touch of controversy, but the South Philadelphia casino project is finally approved and moving full-speed ahead.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the project this week. There will be one final chance for opponents to appeal, then Stadium Casino construction can begin.
Ownership issue involving Parx finally resolved
The group behind Stadium Casino actually applied for and received a gaming license three years ago. The hold up is over whether or not that group can legally own the casino.
The figure at the center of the controversy is Watche “Bob” Manoukian. You see, Manoukian already owns 85 percent of one Pennsylvania casino, the successful Parx Casino outside of Philadelphia.
The state’s Gaming Act specifically states individuals cannot hold ownership stakes greater than 33.3 percent in multiple casinos. Opponents of the proposed casino claimed Manoukian owned more than a third of the new property.
The major opponent in Stadium Casino’s approval is rival property, SugarHouse Casino. SugarHouse also applied for a gaming license to bring a casino to South Philadelphia. PGCB opted for the Stadium proposal instead.
The case went to court, eventually escalating to the state Supreme Court. The highest court ruled the gaming board needed to reexamine the case to determine how much of a stake Manoukian owned.
The issue at hand was not just the financial stake Manoukian owned, but related loans and how many of those traced back to Parx.
Manoukian agreed to transfer $34 million into a trust for his two sons. Rather than treat that money as a loan, he assures the money is a gift. If his sons use that money on Stadium Casino, Manoukian will not have any claim to ownership.
After hearing that guarantee, the PGCB voted 7-0 that Manoukian did not own more than 33.3 percent. As a result, PGCB thinks Stadium Casino can move forward.
Still chance for Stadium opponents to appeal
There is still one step left in the process before crews can begin construction on the property. PGCB will now file a adjudication on their decision. Once filed, SugarHouse and other opponents can appeal to the Supreme Court again. If they don’t, PGCB will move forward o finalizing the casino’s gaming license.
After the vote, Richard Sprague, a lawyer for SugarHouse, commented on his frustration with the decision to Philly.com:
“It’s very easy to say ‘I’ve given a gift to my children.’ What’s the source of the money? Stadium was asked, but did not answer, the exact source of the funds of that $34 million gift. The answer was ‘multiple sources. Someone should take the depositions of the sons.”
Should it go forward, the proposal is a $400 million conversion of an existing Holiday Inn into a casino property. The location is in proximity to all of the major sporting venues in the city.