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Gaming board recommends pulling plug on Foxwoods Philly

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published April 30. 2010 4:00AM
Petition asserts plan has 'no prospects of funding'

Adrift since casino mogul Steve Wynn bailed out of the project three weeks ago, Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia investors now face the prospect of having the plug pulled - officially.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's investigative division petitioned the board Thursday to revoke the slot-machine license the board approved for Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, or PEDP, nearly three-and-a-half years ago. The partners include the Foxwoods Development Co., the development arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino and Foxwoods at MGM Grand.

In a complaint filed after the board rejected PEDP's request for another six months to secure financing, Cyrus Pitre, chief counsel for the division, asserts that PEDP "has no funds, no prospects of funding, and no viable alternative plan to construct the facility for which it was licensed by the Board."

The Foxwoods investors have 30 days to respond to the petition, which could lead to the start of a lengthy legal process, according to Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the gaming board. In the meantime, he said, "they can continue to look for partners."

The tribe did not respond to requests for comment.

The beleaguered project had appeared to get a boost when Wynn Resorts Limited, the casino operator founded by Wynn, announced in February that it had agreed to partner with PEDP. Then, just days after meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and filing renderings and other documents with the gaming board, Wynn announced April 8 that he was withdrawing from the project.

Wynn's departure left PEDP in violation of filing requirements adopted last year by the gaming board, which had imposed fines of $2,000 a day for the investors' failure to meet a Dec. 1 deadline for submitting documents. The fines continue to be assessed, according to McGarvey, who said the investors had previously paid $186,000 in fines and, through Thursday, faced a balance of $114,000 more.

Last September the gaming board granted a two-year extension of the casino license for the project, ordering that it be built as originally proposed at a South Philadelphia site on the Delaware River. The extension called for a temporary facility with 1,500 slot machines to be up and running by May 29, 2011. Originally, plans called for an initial $670 million phase of the project to include 3,000 slots.

In its four-count complaint, the gaming board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement asserts that PEDP "no longer has the financial or operational ability to plan, design, and construct a facility at the Columbus Boulevard site with a minimum of 1,500 slot machines … much less one that is substantially similar to that approved by the Board on December 20, 2006."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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