Valley Forge slots plan up for a pitch
Investors are seeking a Pa. license to install gambling machines at the suburban Convention Center.
An investment group proposing to put 500 slot machines at the Valley Forge Convention Center will present its project tomorrow at a public hearing in King of Prussia.
The $100 million project, headed by Valley Forge Convention Center Partners L.P. and backed by investors including Ira Lubert, is competing against two other partnerships for the state's last two slots licenses.
"We are looking to bring another important entertainment amenity to the western suburbs," said Joseph Sweeney, partner-in-charge of Valley Forge Convention Center Partners, which proposed the slots parlor for Upper Merion Township.
The hearing begins at 9 a.m. at the Dolce Valley Forge Hotel, 301 West Dekalb Pike in King of Prussia.
A partnership between Bushkill Group Inc. and the Fernwood Hotel & Resort is proposing a slots parlor in Bushkill, Monroe County. And Vacation Charters Ltd. wants to add a slots parlor to its Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony in Carbon County.
Those groups recently held their own public hearings in municipalities where they propose to build a slots parlor, as required by state law.
The two remaining slots licenses are Category 3, which cap the number of slot machines at 500. Other license categories allow many more slots.
In addition, the facility must have at least 275 hotel rooms and three additional amenities, such as convention or meeting space, spas, pools, a golf course, restaurants and lounges, or similar types of ancillary activities.
Access to the gambling floor would be restricted to patrons of the hotel or its facilities.
Initially in 2006, there were no bidders for the two Category 3 licenses, and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board canceled the application process. Last year, it reopened the process and received four applications. One applicant - CE-Palace L.P. of Monroeville, Allegheny County - withdrew, leaving the other three groups, according to Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the gaming board.
The board will pick the license winners.
Sweeney, a real estate investor from Harrisburg, said his project includes the purchase of the Convention Center and its two hotels, renovations at the site, new slot machines, and "soft" costs, including legal, architectural and engineering.
Lubert is the top stakeholder of Sweeney's group as the Convention Center's current majority owner. He also owns vast real estate holdings throughout the region. Others include Michael Forman, a principal in FB Capital L.L.C., an equity firm in Philadelphia, and Michael Heller, a partner in the Center City law firm Cozen O'Connor.
Upper Merion Township Manager Ronald Wagenman said an economic-impact report by Sweeney's group outlined $1.2 million in annual tax revenue coming to the 27,000-resident township.
The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce have endorsed the plan.
Wagenman said township officials and a township Board of Supervisors member are expected to testify tomorrow.
Township residents and community groups also are expected to testify.