The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has taken the first step toward determining the fate of the casino license stripped from the ill-fated Foxwoods Philadelphia casino in late 2010. The House overwhelmingly passed a bill last month that would create an open, statewide auction for the license.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Curt Schroder, would set a minimum bid of $65 million for the license, which carried a $50 million fee when awarded to a partnership headed by Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot tribe in 2006. Schroder, who represents the Philadelphia suburb of Chester—already the site of a casino—has been a vocal opponent of keeping the license in Philadelphia as provided under the 2004 gaming law, calling the eastern Pennsylvania gaming market already overcrowded.
“This would let the free market determine what price we would get for the casino,” Schroder told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It would also allow the market to guide the gaming board as to where the license should go.”
An amendment to give Philadelphia first bidding rights to the new license was easily defeated in a House committee, with other Philadelphia lawmakers voting against it.
The bill, though, faces an uphill battle in the state Senate, where Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi—another Chester lawmaker—has said the state casino industry itself may be reaching a point of saturation, with 11 casinos open and two more under construction.
“We have to take a long-term look at the industry and its return to the state treasury,” Pileggi told the Inquirer. “I think there is still an open question whether the commonwealth will benefit.”
The Philadelphia market is home to three casinos—SugarHouse, on the South Philadelphia waterfront; the Harrah’s Philadelphia racino in Chester; and Parx at Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, the most successful casino in the state. Three other casinos are within an easy drive of Philadelphia.