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Gambling regulators clear way for Philadelphia casinos

December 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

HARRISBURG, PA. — Pennsylvania gambling regulators Wednesday cleared the way for Philadelphia to become the nation's largest city with a casino, while rejecting Donald Trump's bid for a slot machine parlor and plans for another near the historic Gettysburg battlefield.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board chose from among 13 groups of casino giants, politically connected investors, celebrities and nationally known developers when it awarded five licenses for stand-alone slot parlors.

Winners include groups led by billionaire Chicago-based developer Neil G. Bluhm and the Connecticut-based Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, each of which plans to build on Philadelphia's riverfront.

Detroit-based casino developer Don H. Barden won the single license up for grabs in Pittsburgh, where he plans to build in the city's stadium district.

The gaming board rejected an application by Trump's Atlantic City, N.J.-based casino company for a casino in northwest Philadelphia. And it rejected a proposal by St. Louis-based Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. to build a casino next to Pittsburgh's aging Mellon Arena and pay for a new $290-million arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League without using taxpayer money.

Also rejected was a hotly contested proposal by a group led by Connecticut-based Silver Point Capital for a casino near the Gettysburg battlefield.

The board awarded 11 permanent slot licenses, each allowing as many as 5,000 machines. Six licenses are earmarked for the state's horse-racing tracks.

So far, two racetracks -- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and Philadelphia Park -- have opened slot parlors under conditional licenses, while racetracks in Chester and near Erie are expected to open slot parlors in the next two months.

Gov. Ed Rendell rejuvenated a 25-year drive to legalize casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania by promising that slot revenue would help reduce property taxes and revive the state's declining horse-racing industry.

The law passed in 2004 authorized as many as 61,000 slot machines at 14 sites.

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