Keep casinos out of Philly’s backyard

Atlantic City may not be the only place to hit the gambling scene in the area for much longer. There are 14 gaming licenses being presented across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania under state law, and

Atlantic City may not be the only place to hit the gambling scene in the area for much longer. There are 14 gaming licenses being presented across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania under state law, and it looks like two slot parlor casinos (casinos that only have slot machines) are coming to Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Gaming Advisory Task Force is looking at various sites throughout the city, from areas in West Philadelphia and Center City, to the Navy Yard and Fishtown.

The addition of casinos in any of these areas will hopefully spark additional planning in Center City and along the Delaware riverfront, and with all this available space to work with, the race to apply for a license grows more frenzied each day.

Of the 25 applicants competing, a venture led by Foxwoods Development Co. and Donald Trump’s Keystone Redevelopment Partners look like the most likely to win the licenses.

Does this mean that billionaires and highbrow clientele are going to fill the city streets now that gambling has come to Philly or should we watch out for prostitution and drunken winos along the strip? Philadelphia could be getting itself into a mess by involving itself in the gambling business.

The PGATF tried to ease the city’s critics of slot parlor casinos in its final report sent to Mayor John Street on Oct. 27. The report stated: “It is clear that the gaming industry will have a significant impact on the city of Philadelphia, including wage tax reductions, new economic development, funding for the convention expansion, new jobs and additional revenue for the city’s general fund.

The introduction of this new industry also provides the opportunity to strengthen the city’s entertainment and tourism experience, redevelop underused sections of the city and recapture gaming dollars currently leaving Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.”

In plain English it looks great, but what long-term effects could gambling have for the city? For instance, traffic would worsen if two new casinos were created.

It’s great that the city would be making extra money, but what about the families and the communities in the surrounding area that now either have to park blocks away from their homes or even have to pay for parking?

Not to mention, these people have to put up with the bright casino lights, followed by music, car horns and commotions at all hours of the night.

When I go to a casino, I like it because I can go back home when I’m done. Having a casino in my own backyard sounds great initially, but it’s still a casino in my backyard.

As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” When I leave the casino, I leave behind the complimentary drinks, the flashy lights and lively music, the quirky people and the shirt on my back that I just lost to the house.

It’s good to leave that miles behind, locked away in some forbidden, weekend excursion vault. There’s no reason to bring all that here – only for money. The blinding luxury of the dollar always seems nice in theory, but it is nonetheless blinding.

Hopefully, the influx of new money won’t distract anyone from trying to revitalize the face of a city that has a history of being passed over.

But when it comes down to it, the PGATF seems like it is on the right page for making Philadelphia a better place. Patrick Mulligan of the PGATF assured that the communities in the area will be taken care of.

“We are hoping to have established service centers, in connection with the casinos that will directly help the surrounding communities,” he said.

The service centers may be just what these communities need, bringing light to underserved and overlooked parts of the city. This would be great, of course, if it doesn’t compromise any of the city’s historic or physical integrity in the end.

Fred Frenzel can be reached at

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