In a 7-0 vote Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ruled that the proposed Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia can proceed with plans to build in the heart of the Stadium District in South Philadelphia.
The ruling by the board follows an order by the Philadelphia Supreme Court in March this year to delve deeper into Stadium L.L.C.’s ownership structure to determine if Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment’s Watche “Bob” Manoukian would have a more than 1/3 ownership interest in the city’s second casino as limited by law. Stadium LLC is reportedly a partnership between Manoukian’s Greenwood Racing, Inc., and Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, operator of Maryland Live! Casino.
Competing interests including SugarHouse Casino have long held the Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia license would violate state law. SugarHouse HSP Gaming L.L.P. operates the only other casino in the city and in March 2015, in association with real estate supergroup, Market East Associates, and Local Gaming LLC were denied an appeal of the Gaming Control Board’s approval of Stadium’s application based on the ‘monopoly clause’. The companies, at the time, were given 30 days to appeal to the State Supreme Court.
SugarHouse and Market East were unsuccessful bidders for the state’s final license in 2014.
NBC 10 Philadelphia reports that the board’s spokesman said that it [the Board] found businessman Manoukian’s involvement in the $600 million project will not result in him exceeding a controlling interest limit. According to the spokesman, state law prohibits a party which owns the majority interest in one casino from exceeding 33.3 percent ownership in another.
Parx Casino in Bensalem is owned by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment. Manoukian owns 85.84 percent of the Bucks County casino. According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, the London-based, Armenia-born billionaire previously told the Gaming Control Board that he would transfer interest in the South Philly casino project in the amount of $34 million to a trust for his sons.
The board was reportedly in agreement that the transfer would be enough for the proposed project to avoid breaking the state law.
If approved, the $600 million stadium casino will be built at 9th and Packer and will reportedly include an upscale 220-room boutique hotel, 2,600-space parking garage, shops and locally and nationally-recognized restaurants and live entertainment venues, 2,000 slot machines and 125 table games.
Since the award in 2014 and approval of the master plan in October 2015, the project has been plagued by protests and court proceedings. NBC 10 Philadelphia reports that according to the board, Market East Associates, the group behind a proposed “urban entertainment center” at Eighth and Market, has 30 days to appeal the gaming board’s decision.
In 2013, Market East Associates announced a new name, MARKET8, and a new partnership for a proposed casino along East Market Street; the operations partner being Mohegan Gaming Advisors (MGA). MGA manages Resorts in Atlantic City and its parent group, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, operates Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.
If an appeal is filed, arguments on the case will be heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If no appeal is filed, the license will be finalized by the gaming board. The gaming board will also review the project’s financing sources making way for construction of Philadelphia’s second casino to begin at 9th Street and Packer Avenue, immediately proximate to the Cordish Companies’ 4.4-acre dining, entertainment and retail district, XFINITY Live!