Three of the six proposed sites for a new Philadelphia casino are near the stadiums in South Philadelphia. So the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is taking testimony for two days at Lincoln Financial Field.
Supporters and opponents of specific project spoke up, but all agreed: Opening a casino could really change a Philly neighborhood.
Jack Ferguson, the President of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, called on the gaming board to choose a site that keeps in mind the city's economic infrastructure. "The Stadium area, north Broad Street, Market East, in some way you could say each of those neighborhoods needs a catalyst of transformation." Ferguson said an additional casino in the city would add to the city's entertainment offerings.
Barbara Capozzi told the Board her community already endures plenty of traffic, trash and noise. Capozzi is President of the Packer Park Civic Association, the neighborhood adjacent to the sports complex. "Needless to say, our nightlife down here does not need any assistance. I'll leave you with this image. Putting a casino where there's already four very large, very loud entertainment and sports events is like putting a 10 lb. sausage in a 1 lb. bag. Or like putting a size 14 girl in a size two jeans. No matter how you slice it, it's ugly."
Capozzi said people who live near the stadium complex are opposed to a casino for reasons that go well beyond, "the normal and infamous NIMBY - Not In My Backyard."
"Indeed," she said, "I sincerely thank you for coming to my backyard so that you can see for yourself all that we already have here. Not only in our backyard but in our front porches for many of us."
Capozzi also said, given ticket prices, she doubts the casino will draw people who are also visiting for sporting and entertainment events because, she said, visitors will not have additional time and money to spend at a casino.
Reading Terminal Market General Manager Paul Steinke tried to sell the board on a specific location. He said a casino near the market could draw prospective patrons to the Market Street east area. "The Market 8 project could be a needed catalyst for returning Market East to its historic role as a main thoroughfare and axis of commercial and entertainment activity in the city."
Developer Herb Reid spoke in favor of his mentor Bart Blatstein and his north Broad Street casino proposal. "A project of this magnitude will help the already building momentum along north Broad and help bring the gap between neighborhoods. Supporting growth beyond just The Provence [casino hotel], in every direction."
Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said public hearings so far have been a success: Citizens and community leaders have turned out in strong numbers. Next, he said, background investigations will be conducted into the casino applicants. "The board will hopefully be in a position by the end of this year to consider an award out of the six. Granted that we're able to get the backgrounds done and that we've collected all of the pertinent information."
The Gaming Board will return to Lincoln Financial Field tomorrow for what is expected to be the final day public input hearing on the city's next casino. Philadelphia residents and business owners unable to testify in person can also submit written comments to the Board.
The Gaming Control Board hopes to be able to award a second casino license for Philadelphia by the end of the year.