The state Gaming Control Board came to Philadelphia yesterday to survey the mucky riverfront plot in Fishtown now being transformed into the first phase of the SugarHouse casino.
But the conversation quickly turned to Foxwoods, the city's second casino, which finds itself stuck in the metaphorical mud.
Greg Fajt, the Gaming Control Board's new chairman, said a Foxwoods attorney told him this week it will be "a couple of months" before the casino's investors file a petition explaining how the project will move forward.
City Council on Thursday approved zoning for Foxwoods, originally approved by the board for a South Philly riverfront site, to open instead in the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store at 8th and Market streets.
But nine months after proposing a move to Center City, Foxwoods has been unable to agree on a lease with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.
Foxwoods last month requested a one-year extension on its deadline to open a casino, saying it had reached an agreement with PREIT on "principal economic terms" of a lease. That lease is in limbo, Foxwoods added, because PREIT controls the building with another company that objected to the casino's zoning.
That company, Gramercy Capital Corp. in New York, did not return phone calls this week.
Without a lease, Foxwoods can't seek approval from the Gaming Control Board for the move.
"We'll push them to the extent that we can to get up and running," Fajt said. "We'll give them some time. We're going to be reasonable about it. But we don't have unlimited patience."
On the SugarHouse site yesterday, large mechanical claws dumped the wooden remains of old piers into a machine mulching them into huge mounds. Other machines were pulverizing concrete from the former Jack Frost sugar refinery, which was demolished 12 years ago.
The smashed concrete, piled in a berm about 40 feet tall and 100 yards long, will be used as fill for the casino's foundation.
Orange traffic barrels on the site, at Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon Street, marked the corners of what will be the first phase of the casino. With a footprint of 80,000 square feet, it is scheduled to open between April and June of next year.
Foxwoods told the Gaming Control Board in April it could be open in Center City six to nine months after receiving permission. The casino's investors this week said they are "incredibly pleased" to have their zoning approved but could not say when the project would move forward.
PREIT president Joe Coradino said yesterday that his firm has another meeting next week with Foxwoods to discuss a lease.
"We're making progress," he said. "It's been a while. But good things take time to prepare." *