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From Philly to Gettysburg

In the course of the usual exhaustive research that goes into writing this column (hey, it took me nearly an hour this month), I came across a column by the Philadelphia Inquirer's architecture critic, Inga Saffron, who had some good advice for one Stephen Wynn, should Wynn succeed in his quest to take over the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project and make it his own.

From Philly to Gettysburg

In the course of the usual exhaustive research that goes into writing this column (hey, it took me nearly an hour this month), I came across a column by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, who had some good advice for one Stephen Wynn, should Wynn succeed in his quest to take over the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project and make it his own.

Saffron claims most of Pennsylvania’s casinos employ the architectural principle known as “decorated shed,” and she implored Wynn to avoid throwing up a Sam’s Club with neon signs and slot machines. She said Wynn should look at “Civic Vision,” the plan for the Philadelphia waterfront that was drawn up by PennPraxis, a consulting firm employed by Mayor Michael Nutter back when he was dead-set against any casinos on the waterfront-which, amazingly, concluded that there should be no casinos on the waterfront.

This all begs an obvious question:

How do you become an “architecture critic?” Does the entire job involve looking at architecture and saying, “It stinks!?”

Does it pay well? Does every major metropolitan newspaper have an architecture critic? Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Copy Editor, Architecture Critic?

Wait, that’s not the obvious question. The obvious question is whether or not the writer has looked at what Wynn has done in the past. As our own Roger Gros told her in an interview, “he does it better than anyone else.”

Wynn has never done anything that fit into the pack of properties in any market. Whatever he does is going to be different than anything else.

Still, I have to admit that a Sam’s Club with a casino sounds like a heck of an idea. You could save money, and then dump it into a slot machine. And then you could go see something historic in Philadelphia.

Or in Gettysburg.

Yes, my old boss, Dave LeVan, is engaged in another effort to get a casino approved near Gettysburg.

(He is my old boss, you know. I worked for Conrail in one of my past incarnations, writing briefs for the arbitration section when Dave was chairman of the company. I used to write stuff like “notwithstanding the foregoing,” “non adimpleti contractus” and “non compus mentus doofus.” And a lot of other stuff that’s way too long to put in parentheses.)

LeVan, if you recall, spent much of 2006 locked in battle with Susan Star Paddock, who created a group called No Casino Gettysburg, which was credited by some for convincing gaming board members that putting LeVan’s Crossroads casino half a mile from the Gettysburg battlefield was just this side of putting a brothel at the Vatican.

His new project would put a resort-class casino in the Eisenhower Inn, to be called the Mason Dixon Resort. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a friend of LeVan, said last month that this idea’s better than Crossroads, because it’s farther from the battlefield. Of course, it’s only about half a mile farther from the battlefield. No Casino Gettysburg is already lighting the torches and calling the bürgermeister.

Creating a resort-class casino means adding a maximum of 600 slots and 75 tables to an existing hotel. It’s supposed to be a low-key affair, but LeVan’s newest battle of Gettysburg promises to be anything but low-key. He had to remove the word “Gettysburg” from the name of his first project in 2006, and likewise, this one isn’t supposed to have anything that banks on the name of the historic battle.

But isn’t that pretty much what “Mason Dixon” does? Doesn’t it give me an excuse to roll out all my old, bad jokes about a Gettysburg casino again? Like, how it should have cocktail servers in tight-fitting blue and gray outfits? And F&B outlets like the Rebel Yell Bar & Grille, Hooker & Meade’s Cantina and Bobby Lee’s Bagels?

(Actually, Bobby Lee’s Bagels is a new one.)

One may think that the chances of the Mason Dixon casino landing a license is roughly the same as Pickett had with his charge. However, there is one factor that could turn the tide: jobs. There are a lot more people out of work now than there were in 2006, and that could be a big factor in bringing people over to LeVan’s side.

Still, there will be no convincing the opposition of that. They’re dug in like the First Rhode Island at Little Round Top.

Hey, I just remembered another one: The Little Round Top Steakhouse. Fresh round is the only cut they use. Just don’t eat it if it’s blue or gray.

Maybe they should call the casino Wynn Gettysburg. At least the place would be well-designed.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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