Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein wants to build a casino, entertainment and retail complex on the property he now owns along Callowhill Street between Broad and 17th and turn the iconic Inquirer/Daily News building into a hotel.
Stretching over three blocks, the development will be anchored by the only downtown casino in a "top five major city," Blatstein said, and will be a major economic engine in North Philly.
The project depends on Blatstein securing the state casino license that is available because of the failure of Foxwoods casino to develop its site along Columbus Boulevard near Tasker.
"This is going to happen," Blatstein said, standing on the roof of the State Office Building at Broad and Spring Garden streets, which he is turning into an apartment and retail complex. "I stake my reputation of 35 years on it. This is going to be the place to be. When we go into an area, others will follow and money will flow."
Blatstein faces two serious hurdles in his quest for the city's second casino license: The state Gaming Control Board is not currently accepting applications for the license and the state General Assembly may open up bidding for it beyond Philadelphia.
The 2004 state law that legalized casinos in Pennsylvania set aside two licenses in Philadelphia. One group of local investors, originally operating under the name Foxwoods, won a license but failed to open a casino here, prompting the Gaming Control Board to revoke the license in December 2010.
At least three state legislators, two in the Senate and one in the House, worked up legislation that would allow investors in other parts of the state to bid for the Philadelphia license.
State Rep. Curt Schroder, a Chester County Republican, has pending legislation that would auction off the license for at least $66.5 million, $50 million to operate slot machines and $16.5 million to run table games. Schroder's legislation would allow the casino to be located anywhere in the state except Pittsburgh. The auction is a change in state law, which originally set the license fees at a firm $50 million for slots and $16.5 million for table games.
The state Supreme Court on March 29 rejected the last gasp of appeal from the Foxwoods investors, opening the way for rebidding the license. But the Gaming Control Board, noting that changes to the rules of licensing were underway in the General Assembly, announced that it "would be prudent and responsible" to wait and see what happened with that legislation before accepting any applications for the license.
Contact Dan Geringer at 215-854-5961 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @DanGeringer
-Daily News reporter Chris Brennan contributed to this report