After two years of proposals, plans and deliberations, the city of Philadelphia has its second casino licensee. In a public meeting in November, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to award the second city casino license to Live! Hotel and Casino, the joint venture of Maryland’s Cordish Companies and Greenwood Racing, which operates Pennsylvania’s highest-grossing current casino, Parx at Philadelphia Park in nearby Bensalem.
Live! Hotel and Casino will be a 200,000-square-foot complex including a $425 million casino with 2,000 slot machines and 125 table games, with a 220-room hotel created by refurbishing the current Holiday Inn on the site. Board members said a deciding factor in choosing the project was not only the hotel but also its South Philadelphia location, near the sports complex that includes the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park and the NHL Flyers’ Wells Fargo Center.
Cordish also owns Xfinity Live!, the dining and entertainment center at the site of the former Spectrum sports arena at the stadium complex, which connects the baseball stadium and the arena.
The stadium location gives the Live! project access to more than 8.5 million annual visitors, said Cordish President and Managing Partner Joe Weinberg in an interview with Bloomberg. “We think the market has tremendous potential that is untapped at this point,” he said. The gaming board, in a filing explaining the decision, said essentially the same thing, noting “the synergy between gambling and entertainment at a casino” and “the more than 400 stadium-area events per year.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who had pressured the board for a decision despite calls for the second city casino license to be shelved, praised the board’s decision, saying the construction process and the new casino itself will create “thousands of much-needed construction and permanent jobs,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Others weren’t so sure. Several analysts released investor reports in December. None of the comments on the prospects of the planned Live! Casino and Hotel were positive.
The chorus of analyst opinion agreed with the position taken by Philadelphia’s current casino, SugarHouse, and Caesars Entertainment, which owns Harrah’s Philadelphia in nearby Chester: The regional market is oversaturated, and another casino will hurt current operators and the state revenue picture in general.
“The addition of another casino in the greater Philadelphia market will be a significant negative for current operators,” wrote Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett. “We anticipate that gaming revenues at SugarHouse and Harrah’s will be hurt the most… In our view, the addition of the Live! casino will have more of a deleterious impact on the market.”