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Mohegans pitch Philly casino plan

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published February 14. 2013 4:00AM

Mohegan Sun officials touted their casino operations in Uncasville and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., this week during a presentation before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the agency considering applications for a second Philadelphia casino license.

Mohegan Gaming Advisors, equity partners in a group called Market East Associates, would operate the $500 million casino the group has proposed for Eighth and Market streets in the heart of the city.

The MARKET8 project, as it is known, was one of six presented during an all-day session Tuesday at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Video of the session was streamed live on the gaming board's website, gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov, where it is available for viewing.

During the presentation, Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said the MARKET8 casino would generate $207 million a year in gaming tax revenue for Pennsylvania and another $18 million for Philadelphia. He also cited a published report that credited Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a Wilkes-Barre racetrack casino, with exceeding the revenue projections the Mohegan authority made in 2006 when it was seeking a license to operate the facility.

Gaming revenues for 2012 show Pocono Downs "over-delivered" on the authority's projections by 38 percent, Etess said. Etess and Bobby Soper, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, the authority's flagship casino in Uncasville, appeared in a 13-minute film Market East Associates screened as part of its presentation.

Etess, in a phone interview Wednesday, said the attractiveness of the MARKET8 location is one of the proposal's strongest features. "Everybody says they have the best site, but I really believe we do," he said. "We're really poised to become a tourist destination there, next to the Convention Center. Gaming is something that convention planners are looking for - a casino is just an amenity for the conventioneers. "It's kind of unprecedented to be in a historic area like that."

The Mohegans have yet to disclose their investment in the project, which calls for 100,000 square feet of gaming space, hotel rooms, eight restaurants, a 1,500-seat concert venue and a spa and fitness center. Deutsche Bank would provide financing.

The Pennsylvania gaming board will conduct public hearings April 11-12 on the Philadelphia casino proposals.

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