The final steel beam of the SugarHouse Casino, Philadelphia's first gaming hall, was mounted in place Friday on the 22-acre site straddling Fishtown and Northern Liberties on Columbus Boulevard.

The "topping" ceremony, which brought the casino one step closer to its projected opening in mid-September, was part of a union ritual bestowing good luck and good fortune upon a completed infrastructure for SugarHouse, a 60,000-square-foot building that will eventually employ hundreds of casino workers.

But it took much more than luck to bring the casino into existence, said Wendy Hamilton, the project's general manager. SugarHouse was granted one of two casino licenses in Philadelphia in 2006 and has been met by opposition from neighbors who fear increased traffic and crime once it opens.

Hamilton said the topping off ceremony made the casino finally feel real.

Philadelphia union workers, planners and city officials, including Mayor Nutter, watched the beam rise to the air and settle in its home.

Two DJs, wearing hard hats, played music as sugar cookies imprinted with the newly revealed casino logo were passed out and Ace-of-Spade and slot machine shaped balloons whirled in the wind.

The casino will house more than 1,600 slot machines. SugarHouse will seek approval later this month from the state Gaming Control Board to add 42 table games.

If approved, the table games will be in place when the casino opens its doors, Hamilton said.

SugarHouse is expected to employ 800 for jobs ranging from dealers and bartenders to accountants and maintenance workers.

Hamilton said SugarHouse is beginning its hiring process and has had an overwhelming interest in the positions.

She said the SugarHouse management plans to hire as many local residents as possible and will invite 400 people to a free, 10-week dealer school beginning in June. From that group, they will choose the dealers, Hamilton said.

Nutter said Philadelphia is ready to come to work and he is anticipating the benefits SugarHouse will have on the city.

"It's all about jobs, jobs and jobs," the mayor said.

Contact staff writer Elisa Lala at or 215-854-5626.