U.S. REP. Bob Brady may have a new marquee-name partner in his push for the city to own a casino in South Philadelphia.

Penn National Gaming Inc. told the state Gaming Control Board on Thursday that it is talking with Brady about his casino concept for the 27-acre former Food Distribution Center on Packer Avenue at 3rd Street.

Penn National, which operates a casino at a horse-racing track in Grantville, outside of Harrisburg, filed a casino-license application Thursday for a 13-acre lot it controls four blocks west on Packer Avenue at 7th Street.

The company on Thursday said it might add the city as a partner there or at the city-owned site down the street through a new nonprofit organization.

"The company anticipates a near-term announcement on these plans," Penn National said in a news release Thursday, adding that state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson are part of those continuing talks.

The Packer Avenue locations are in Johnson's district, and Williams is pushing in Harrisburg for a city-owned casino.

Here's how the Penn National-city partnership might work:

The city owns the former Food Distribution Center, controlling it with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC).

Penn National, because it already owns a controlling stake in one casino, can only own up to one-third of a second casino, according to state gaming law.

Mayor Nutter, who says a city-owned casino would violate the state Constitution, could tell PIDC to transfer control of the land to Penn National. Or City Council could approve a "transfer ordinance" to give Penn National the land if Nutter balks.

In return, Penn National would pay for the gaming license and build the project, taking one-third of the profits after it opens.

Penn National would establish a nonprofit to receive the city's two-thirds cut of the casino profit, an attempt to eliminate Nutter's concerns on city ownership.

Brady previously proposed a referendum on the May 2013 primary-election ballot, asking voters to borrow $500 million to pay for the casino. That referendum would no longer be necessary.

The city's casino profits would go to the Philadelphia School District and the underfunded municipal pension plan.

Brady pitched his idea again Wednesday to Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke.

They still didn't bite.

"It's astounding. How can we say, 'Let's not pursue it?' " Brady asked Thursday. "We don't have to build it. We don't have to operate it. We're just receiving two-thirds of the money."

Clarke called Brady's concept "interesting" but added that he would "like to see us keep the existing timeline" for casino applications.

The state Gaming Control Board's deadline for applications for the city's remaining casino license passed at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Clarke is close with developer Bart Blatstein, who has been fostering an air of inevitability about his plans for a casino project at Broad and Callowhill streets at the former headquarters of the Daily News, Inquirer and Philly. com.

Blatstein hand-delivered his application to the Gaming Control Board in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

Developer Rob Zuritsky, who runs Parkway Corp., dropped plans at the last minute to seek a casino license for his headquarters at Broad and Race streets, across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Other license applicants are:

*  The owner of the Parx Casino in Bensalem and the Cordish Companies of Baltimore, for Packer Avenue at 9th Street, where a Holiday Inn hotel stands.

* The Goldenberg Group of Blue Bell, for a surface parking lot at 8th and Market streets.

* Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts, for a plot on the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown at the former Cramp Shipyard.

" @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: phillyclout.com