A final decision by the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment is needed before horse and sports betting operations move from the Turf Club into a small portion of a Chickie’s and Pete’s restaurant seven blocks away on Packer Avenue in South Philadelphia.
But the plan made it past the first hurdle Tuesday.
Step in the right direction for Turf Club
The zoning board chose to let the off-track betting project proceed toward a “special exception,” rather than requiring a variance, which has more stringent requirements. The formal name of the operation in question is the South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook. It’s a satellite of Parx Casino in Bucks County.
The city’s Department of Licensing and Inspections initially ruled the proposal only needed to meet the exception requirements, then changed its mind and decided a variance was needed. On Tuesday, the board moved ahead by rejecting that decision.
But not all parties present were in agreement.
City attorney Leonard Reuter suggested during the meeting that the proposed site would need to be licensed as a casino. He said that’s because the city’s zoning law language varies from the wording of state gaming regulations.
Municipal lawyer said Turf Club “currently in violation”
At one point Reuter even said “I would say it is currently in violation,” given the ongoing wagering on horses and sports at the Turf Club, which is across the street from the newly opened Live! Casino Philadelphia.
The addition of sports wagering never came before the city for review under its zoning regulations, according to Reuter. Sports betting began about two years ago.
After the vote, Reuter told the board the city reserves the right to challenge the board’s decision.
No date set to complete zoning approval
The 3.5 hour-long meeting – the third meeting on the same proposal – will continue.
At some indeterminate future date the board will hear additional testimony under the special exception stipulation.
Civic association continues objection to Parx proposal
Some quality of life and traffic issues testimony also came at the Tuesday meeting.
A letter from a lawyer for the proposal rejected attacks by the Packer Park Civic Association. That’s the residential community near the bar and restaurant.
Lawyer Sarah C. Stoner wrote that “The (association’s) bald assertions that the proposed relocation of the Race & Sportsbook should be rejected on the basis of crime, traffic, quality of life issues, and diminution of property values should be disregarded.”
She added the new facility “will benefit the local community and advance the best interests of racing.”
Another lawyer, Paul Boni, who represents Packer, presented during the hearing. He said:
“This is not allowed in our residential community, even as a special exception. We will prevail in the end.”
A lawyer who reps the Turf Club did not immediately respond to a request for comment following the meeting.
Ultimately, Parx wants to move additional OTB sites to other Chickie’s and Pete’s. How it all plays out remains to be seen. Find the latest developments here at PlayPennsylvania.
Lead image via Dreamstime.