LOOKING for a safe bet?

Put your money on there being significant community backlash when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board later this month announces the winner of the race for the city's second casino license.

The board said yesterday that it will hold a public meeting at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18 in Room 201 of the Pennsylvania Convention Center "for the purpose of considering an award" of the license.

But the scuttlebutt around town is that the decision has already been made, that the license will be awarded to the Cordish Companies and Greenwood Racing, Inc., which wants to build the Live! Hotel and Casino at 9th Street and Packer Avenue - the current site of a Holiday Inn, and a stone's throw from Citizens Bank Park.

"This is the absolute worst location for a casino," said Barbara Capozzi, the treasurer of the Sports Complex Special Services District, the nonprofit that serves residents in the stadium area.

In addition to the Phillies' ballpark, the neighborhood is home to Lincoln Financial Field, Wells Fargo Center and XFINITY Live!, collectively drawing about 8 million people to the area every year.

The nonprofit will hold a community meeting on Wednesday night to discuss concerns about the Live! Hotel and Casino project.

Capozzi said the meeting was supposed to be held at the Holiday Inn, but the hotel canceled the nonprofit's reservation, forcing the meeting to be moved to the nearby Stella Maris Church.

"We seriously can't take more congestion down here," she said. "This is not a case of NIMBY [Not In My Backyard]. If another neighborhood can show me that they have more going on than we do, I'll drop my reservations."

The competition for the casino license has dragged on for two years. In addition to Live! Casino and Hotel, three other bidders remain:

* Tower Entertainment LLC, which proposed building a casino, hotel and shopping area called the Provence at Broad and Callowhill streets.

* Market East Associates, LP, which sought to build Market8, a hotel, casino and entertainment venue at 8th and Market streets.

* PHL Gaming LLC, which aimed to build the Casino Revolution, and a neighboring family entertainment zone, at Front Street and Pattison Avenue.

The backers of Live! Hotel and Casino pitched a 200,000-square-foot gaming facility, housing 2,000 slot machines, plus a 220-room hotel.

Capozzi said she believed all along that Cordish's and Greenwood's stadium-area proposal would win the license because they could pay for the estimated $400 million project without taking on any debt.

"No one's happy about this," she said.

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