Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Odds On A Casino Vote

The editorial on casinos in today's Inquirer gets it exactly right: Philadelphians deserve a chance to vote on gambling. Whether they get what they deserve will be decided tomorrow by 12 good people on City Council. The legislators are scheduled to vote at 10 a.m. on a Frank DiCicco-sponsored ballot initiative that would greatly restrict the location of casinos. If the measure gets 12 votes, then the question will be included on the May 15 primary ballot.

The referendum wouldn't actually outlaw gambling in Philadelphia. But it would specify that casinos must be 1,500 feet away from the nearest residential area. That rules out both Foxwoods and Sugarhouse, the winners of Philadelphia's two slots licenses, as well as the three losers - Trump, Pinnacle and Planet Hollywood. But there are still five sites on the Delaware waterfronts that would meet the 1,500-foot rule. In last week's Daily News, Society Hill Civic's Paul Boni made a good case that there are other, better locations for casinos. A city that cares about controlling its destiny would have insisted on choosing the sites, not leaving it to the operators, the Harrisburg pols, and a roll of the dice.

Even though slots seem like a done deal, there's ample precedent for putting the question on the ballot. In virtually every state where gambling has been legalized, the public has been given a say. Here in Pennsylvania, the state legislature approved the monumental change in the middle of the night on July 3, 2004. I distinctly remember during the run-up to the primary election that year receiving almost daily campaign mailings from Sen. Vince Fumo. Not a single one even mentioned the impending vote, even though he was the chief author of the gambling bill.

If council does approve the ballot question, be prepared for legal challenges. The status-quo powers didn't want the public involved in gambling decisions in 2004, and they don't want people involved today.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomorrow is a good day for democracy in Philadelphia. Let the people have their voice.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Joel Palmer said...

Bravo and let us hope the entire seventeen members of the Counncil will provide for a veto proof referendum vote tomorrow! We need to shine a bright light on the process so that there is community input to the site selection; unlike the dark-of-night legislation that enabled the casino licenses.
Joel Palmer

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

I agree that philadelphians should have a say in where casinos should be located, although, the efforts of the "Casino Free Phiadelphia Orginization" are far too late. If they were so concerned, they should have done this three or four years ago. To have a ballot measure now seems ridculous and a complete waste of council's time. Not to mention, doomed to fail, even if if voters agree. The state law is already written to prevent something like this to impede casino developement.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

At some point in this process the voting public will need a chart of facts that will make clear the legal realities and legal options as opposed to the spin we have received to date.

Are slots in Philadelphia a done deal, or not? If the referendum is supported by City Council and is included in the May ballot, is that change to the Home Rule retroactive and applicable to the two gaming licenses already issued? Is the site selection process flawed, or not? Can the site selection process be re-opened, or not? Could the casino licenses be considered mobile and be re-located to more appropriate sites? Is there any guarantee of tax relief or other benefit to the public? If there is no benefit to the public over a decided period of time, can the gaming law be repealed, if the experiment proves to be a failure, and does yield the benefits touted today?

The voting public could use some facts to lean on as they consider the referendum question and the future of gaming in Philadelphia.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

At some point in this process the voting public will need a chart of facts that will make clear the legal realities and legal options as opposed to the spin we have received to date.

Are slots in Philadelphia a done deal, or not? If the referendum is supported by City Council and is included in the May ballot, is that change to the Home Rule retroactive and applicable to the two gaming licenses already issued? Is the site selection process flawed, or not? Can the site selection process be re-opened, or not? Could the casino licenses be considered mobile and be re-located to more appropriate sites? Is there any guarantee of tax relief or other benefit to the public? If there is no benefit to the public over a decided period of time, can the gaming law be repealed, if the experiment proves to be a failure, and does yield the benefits touted today?

The voting public could use some facts to lean on as they consider the referendum question and the future of gaming in Philadelphia.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess this is 'a compromise' why not 2000', 3000', 5000' or i guess what i'm saying is nowhere in the city

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Leah said...

Yep...the politicians of Pa sure don't seem to want us involved. Which is what makes me even more suspicious of what underhandedness is going on that we don't even know about.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous sbp said...

I believe that Philadelphia should promote "Mom and Pop" style casinos, and boutique gaming palours and restaurants. Why should the possibility of making money from the gaming industry be limited to the Trumps, the Ballys and the Steve Wynns of the World? Let the gambling blend in with the neighborhood or area. Let it start small and then maybe grow big. After all Wal-mart started with one little store. Let it be part of the City's History. Look at Deadwood, South Dakota. That is how they are doing it. Here is an advertisment statement about their gambling: "Deadwood's historic gaming halls date back to the Gold Rush of 1876. The action continues today in over 80 establishments ranging from nickel slots to $100 bet limits." That way the gaming industry will only be a part of all the great entertainment that is offered here in Philadelphia and not dominate it.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Zur said...

Support Higher Wage Taxes!

Keep Philadelphia uncompetitive with the suburbs.

http://www.picapa.org/docs/Mayor_Final.pdf

Page 19

(PICA is the state oversight for Philadelphia's Budget)

"Even without gaming revenue, Wage Tax rates will have dropped 22 percent for residents and 18 percent for nonresidents from FY95 to FY11. With gaming revenues the Wage Tax reductions would be steeper – just under 30 percent for residents and just over 20 percent for nonresidents. By continuing the modest annual reductions that have led to those substantial cumulative reductions, the next mayor can further narrow the tax gap between Philadelphia and other jurisdictions."

" Pennsylvania's four casinos are expected to contribute $501.5 million to state coffers this fiscal year, the state's top gaming official said Tuesday.

The state is expected to have a total of 14 casinos, but only four are open to date. At full strength, the casino industry is expected to contribute $1.5 billion a year to the state, based on gross slot terminal revenue of $3 billion, said Tad Decker, chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. "

http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2007/03/12/daily15.html


Support Higher Taxes! Say no to Casinos!

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The chances of the referendum actually being recognized are slim to none. We'll see if the State legislature preempts city council's vote. If not, watch for the Supreme Court to overrule the Referendum either before or after a city-wide vote.

As much as people want to bitch and moan, if the CasinoFree/Diccioco referendum gets voted for on May 15th, does the relocation of these unwanted casinos, some 1,500 ft, still resolve or address the neglected and latent potential these waterfront developments would provide? The obvious answer is no. So instead, how about someone comes up with a better catalyst or economic stimulus plan where the waterfront can be reclaimed and revitalized. Anything come to mind? If not, enjoy looking at prime real estate collect trash and symbolize a conflicted city where progress is made at a snail's pace.

I don't think people understand the positive impact the casinos could actually generate (tax revenue-wise, money multiplier, tourism dollars, waterfront access, jobs, general economic momentum, etc) and instead love to focus on the negative and typical NIMBY/status-quo/afraid of change mentality. Traffic, crime, prostitution, like these things don't already exist in your neighborhoods. Beyond that, traffic will not thwart our "busy" ports and force layoffs for the local longshoremen. Has anyone been to NYC lately and experienced the typical traffic patterns there? Does the city still function and have arguably the most robust economy the world over? I think Philly will survive regardless. But without the casinos in their optimal locations (current waterfront parcels), perhaps the city will remain on life support a little longer.

It is an exciting political circus nonetheless, lets see how it unfolds and who amounts victorious.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Cavalier92 said...

Here's the thing Inga - Philadelphians already GOT a chance to vote on casinos. When they elected Rendell governor and Perzell to the legislature and the rest of the pro-gambling folks, they CHOSE. Now I am not one to tell you that casinos can make or break Philly. And I sure think the locations and designs are a problem. But this die has been cast and it's time to work on influencing the projects rather than tilting at windmills.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once a Philadelphian, I now live in San Diego. Its beautiful bay is largely blocked to pedestrians, sold to the highest bidders in the hotel and tourist trade. Its world famous zoo, occupying a large part of Balboa Park, charges entrance fees prohibitive to use by local residents. Public streets are often fenced off and policed, given over to private interests to, once again, charge large entrance fees. Is this what the beautiful, lively, unique city of Philadelphia wishes to become?

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"City Solicitor Romulo Diaz Jr. spoke first. Each year, gaming would funnel $5 million to Philadelphia schools and between $20 and $25 million to the city’s general fund, in addition to allowing a 13% reduction in the city wage tax. Diaz said construction of the facilities would employ 1,000 in the building trades, who would take home a combined $34 million in wages. Once open, the casinos would employ 2,000, mostly from Philadelphia."

2:14 PM  
Anonymous MB said...

When every town and city in the U.S. has gambling, casinos cease attracting tourist dollars, which means the taxes of residents don't drop.

Although there have been discussions about burying 676 in the past, there has not been much mention of burying I-95. Until recently. Smells like the casinos want it. If so, let them pay for it. Otherwise your decrease in taxes and increase in revenues will disappear into the shovels of earthmovers.

As for whether New York has the most robust economy in the world, you might want to take a look at Dubai.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Stinger said...

I love this site. Thanks for doing it!

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga:

Where are you it's April 11 and no blog article in almost a month???

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELLO? INGA? Have you forgotten that you even have a blog? Where are you??????? Four weeks without a posting - not even one that says you'll be away is pretty lame. If you want this blog to stay relevant in the discourse of architecture in this city - IT MUST BE UPDATED once in awhile.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has this blog died? No updates in a month? What's going on?

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

INGA! Where are you??? It's been a month! Come back!

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga,

Where are you???

11:10 PM  
Blogger ACM said...

Inga, where are you? missing your insights...

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

45 days since last post...come on inga, blog it or drop it...

9:37 AM  

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