Gaming regulators approved a financing plan for the SugarHouse Casino yesterday, paving the way for construction of the city's first slots parlor, on Delaware Avenue in Northern Liberties and Fishtown.

The first phase of the project involves building an interim casino with 1,700 slot machines and surface parking for 1,465 vehicles.

The total cost is $355 million. Credit Suisse and Jefferies Finance have put together a loan package worth $180 million, and equity investors led by Chicago developer Neil Bluhm will cover the rest.

SugarHouse told regulators that the lenders insisted the borrower be a holding company that did not control the slots license or the land.

In a unanimous vote, the seven-member Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board agreed to let the limited partnership behind the project, HSP Gaming, transfer its state license to the entity that will run the casino.

With financing set, construction can begin. "We'll move very quickly to move forward, including planning for a groundbreaking," SugarHouse spokesman Dan Fee said.

Through the summer, the developers have been preparing the site for construction, he said.

Fee said that the casino had not started hiring yet but that it expected to employ about 500 people initially.

SugarHouse told regulators the casino could open 10 months after it got the needed approvals and financing.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or