This Christmas, for sure, the folks at the Foxwoods Casino promise they'll get around to opening that gift of a gaming license bestowed upon them four Decembers ago by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. But even a jolly old fellow like Santa would have to say that it's simply too late for that.
As for the state's seven-member gaming board, it should play the Grinch and re-gift the Foxwoods license to another casino operator when it meets this week.
In another key decision, the gaming board should steer clear of Gettysburg when awarding a license for a smaller, resort casino. With viable locations elsewhere for this remaining license, there's no reason to add a casino to the experience of visitors honoring Civil War heroes.
Revoking the Foxwoods permit for its South Philadelphia site was recommended by the gaming board's staff weeks ago, following repeated missteps by Foxwoods in getting the project going. Even so, the board gave Foxwoods one more roll of the dice.
Foxwoods officials insisted last week that a viable deal has finally taken shape - with proven casino operator Harrah's Entertainment on board to develop and run the gaming hall on Columbus Boulevard between Tasker and Reed Streets. A green light from the gaming board will "give us the earliest possible opening date," according to a spokesman.
But there have been more than enough reprieves for this investor group, composed, in part, of high-powered local businessmen with successes in other endeavors. Despite their clout and expertise, real estate developer Ron Rubin, South Jersey lawyer Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider haven't been able to line up three cherries.
Could it be the project was an unwitting victim of the recession? Maybe, but amid the same economic conditions, SugarHouse Casino's operators got their facility up and running on the waterfront, near Fishtown and Northern Liberties. So blaming the economy isn't much of an excuse. Some of Foxwoods' woes also stemmed from its original partner, a group headed by a felon.
From the start, though, the biggest problem was proposing a casino at a traffic-clogged site. The planned big-box gaming hall doesn't fit in with Mayor Nutter's vision for the waterfront. (By the way, the box that SugarHouse opened in September isn't likely to win any design awards, either.)
Given issues with Foxwoods' location and the project's years-long delays, taking time to rebid the license wouldn't be the end of the world. In the meantime, those city residents likely to develop problem-gambling habits will be better off with only one casino, not two, just a bus ride away.
If the city must have another casino, revoking the Foxwoods license will allow regulators to get it right. There are better locations, and even better ideas for this site, including philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest's idea to save the SS United States by incorporating the old cruise ship in a mixed-use development that includes a casino.