The journey of SugarHouse Casino from its selection for one of two Philadelphia slots licenses and its opening to gamblers was long, winding, and four years in duration - from December 2006 to September 2010.
Barring another financial crisis such as the one that began in 2008, which hobbled SugarHouse's financing, prospects of opening more quickly are good for Live! Hotel & Casino, which the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board selected Tuesday to build Philadelphia's second casino.
In SugarHouse's case, it took the appointment of a special master by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in March 2009 to clear out obstacles created by every level of city government.
Joseph S. Weinberg, president of Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, which has partnered with Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. to build Live!, was more optimistic Tuesday about the joint venture's ability to clear the planning and zoning hurdles for its $425 million facility at the stadium complex.
"The city's been very supportive, so we don't expect any issues with the process," Weinberg said.
Later in the week, Weinberg declined to go into more detail, such as when the company hoped to take the likely first step of presenting a proposal to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
Weinberg and his partners in Live! must also navigate City Council, because that's the only way to get the needed zoning change - aside from a state Supreme Court order.
City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose district includes the property where Live! would be built, was not promising anything Friday.
"Tuesday's decision was the beginning of a process," Johnson said. "I am reaching out to community leaders and residents who fear they are getting a neighbor that will bring increased crime and traffic to an already overcrowded area.
"Those fears must be taken care of, or else the discussion won't move forward."
One South Philadelphia community leader vowed to resist the casino.
"We'll make the best possible decision for the neighbors, and we'll continue to fight," said Barbara Capozzi, treasurer of the Sports Complex Special Services District. Capozzi helped organize a Nov. 12 neighborhood meeting of nearly 700 people mostly opposed to the casino.
The situation is complicated by the fact that Capozzi and Johnson have been political rivals. In the 2011 Democratic primary for the seat long held by Anna C. Verna, Johnson defeated Capozzi by 40 votes.
"It's a potential land mine that they are going to need to figure out," said Terrence J. McKenna, a principal with Keating Consulting Services L.L.C. McKenna was the project manager for Keating when it built SugarHouse.
"Cordish is obviously a good firm, and the guys from Parx know what they are doing," McKenna said. "I'm sure they will probably figure it out. They need to bring the community on board. That's the only way it's going to get done."
Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment is the owner of Parx, the Bensalem casino that is the state's leader in gambling revenue.
The partners, operating as Stadium Casino L.L.C., are used to moving fast. They told the gaming board in January they could open Live! 15 months after obtaining their first construction permit.
Getting to that point won't be easy; it never is for a large-scale project in Philadelphia, experts said.
Only after clearing the Zoning Commission and City Council, and after paying a $50 million license fee, can Live! apply for its first permit.
An added twist is that the three losing applicants for the casino license, plus SugarHouse, which was granted legal standing in the application process, have until Dec. 18 to appeal the selection of Live! to the Supreme Court.
Though the Supreme Court has never overturned a decision by the gaming board, that appeals process could still take six months. Weinberg said the company was not waiting for the appeals process to run its course.
"We have our site-plan approval and zoning approval documents ready to submit the minute the city is willing to accept it," Weinberg told the casino regulators in January.
The process for Live! is already moving faster than it did for SugarHouse.
The gaming board voted on Dec. 20, 2006, to award SugarHouse one of two Philadelphia casino licenses, but it did not issue the official order granting the license to SugarHouse until Feb. 1, 2007.
In the case of Live!, both of those actions happened Tuesday, starting the 30-day appeals clock. Pennsylvania's gaming law allows for automatic appeals to the Supreme Court.
SugarHouse took about 10 trips to the Supreme Court before it opened.