Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia Finds Its Contractor

The Live! Casino in Philadelphia’s Stadium Park area took an important step forward by hiring Gilbane as its general contractor.

The long-delayed Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia is now one step closer to becoming a reality. The property, an affiliate of the Maryland-based Cordish Companies, announced Gilbane Building Co. as the general contractor for the planned $700 million project.  The target opening date is late 2020.

The Gilbane team, a global, family-owned company, brings 145-plus years of experience to the project.

Joe Weinberg, the managing partner of the Cordish Companies, spoke about the decision to go with Gilbane in a press release:

“Gilbane was a natural fit for this project because the team is so experienced in the hospitality industry and they bring a real understanding of our vision. Their reputation for quality and dedication to excellence is a core value we both share and expect for a project of this magnitude. We look forward to getting started.”

The complex is located in the heart of the South Philadelphia Stadium District. It will be just footsteps away from where the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers play their home games. When finished, the 1.5 million-square-foot facility will “transform the area into the first integrated sports, entertainment and casino resort destination in the region.”

There is a pre-bid contractor information session on for Jan. 11. Xfinity Live!, the 4.4-acre entertainment district located within the sports complex that Cordish and Comcast-Spectacor own together, will host the event.

Stadium Casino project’s complicated history

Many may be wondering what is taking so long. Stadium Casino LLC won a Pennsylvania statewide bid for a casino license back in November 2014.  The licensing process came about after the proposed Philadelphia-based  Foxwoods Casino project failed to secure financing. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ended up revoking its license.

The other players, including SugarHouse along with the three other applicants, decided to take the matter to court. The issue in question was tied to whether or not Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment owner Bob Manoukian’s stake in the Bensalem-based Parx prohibited him from owning more than one-third of another casino in the Keystone State.

The gambling expansion law passed in October 2017 made way for Stadium to secure a license. However, the project reached another crisis point when Greenwood decided to walk away back in October of 2018.

More about the Stadium Casino project

When completed, Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia will include 2,200 slots and electronic table games along with more than 150 live action table games. There will also be an upscale 200-plus room boutique hotel, nationally-recognized restaurants, and live entertainment venues.

In the short term, patrons will soon be able to place bets at the Greenwood-owned South Philadelphia Turf Club. The property is located across the street from the Live! Casino project. The retail sports betting operation will launch during the first quarter after Parx gets up and running. Parx plans to soft launch on Tuesday.

Live! in Maryland

Cordish is the company behind the other Live! Casino and Hotel located in Maryland. It’s located a little more than 100 miles south of Philadelphia. It features gaming, dining and entertainment options as well. The property has been open since June 2012.

Stadium Casino Project Continues On, Just Without Parx Behind It

The Stadium Casino project will continue, but it will do so without Parx, who backed out of its co-onership of the project. Cordish will go forward solo.

Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment’s recently decided to sell its interest in the proposed Stadium Casino. Now Philadelphia is back to hoping a single gaming entity can construct a world-class gaming parlor in the South Philly stadium area.

Why, after all the years of fighting, clawing and negotiating their way into a piece of the Philadelphia gaming pie, would Greenwood pull out now?

Moreover, what does Cordish Companies, Greenwood’s former partner on the project, stand to gain from the decision?

Let’s take a deeper look.

Cracks in the Cordish-Greenwood foundation

Greenwood Gaming, owner of Parx Casinoin Bensalem, PA, originally partnered with Maryland-based Cordish Companies on the proposed Stadium Casino deal, officially known as Stadium Casino LLC.

But almost from the get-go, there were issues.

Specifically, there was a legal battle over casino ownership laws in Pennsylvania.

It turns out that the principal owner of Parx, Watche “Bob” Manoukian, was in violation of limited casino ownership laws enacted by the state.

The legal troubles, of course, slowed progress. SugarHouse Casino, the only other operational casino in Philadelphia, appealing Stadium’s casino license certainly didn’t help.

But even Pennsylvania legislators simply changing the law so that Manoukian could keep control of both casino projects and SugarHouse’s decision to drop their appeal wasn’t enough to keep the partnership intact.

Teardown to build up

Greenwood and Cordish originally planned to open the city’s second casino in South Philadelphia’s stadium district in the first quarter of 2018.

They even began building efforts, tearing down the Packer Avenue Holiday Inn to make way for the $600 million casino project.

The proposed Stadium project was meant to consist of a casino and hotel complex, including:

  • 2,000 slot machines
  • 125 table games
  • 200-plus rooms
  • Five restaurants
  • Nightclubs
  • Parking garage

According to Cordish, who is ultimately buying out Greenwood, the plan remains the same, even if the timeline has changed drastically.

To this point, $37 million has already gone into tearing down the old Holiday Inn on Packer Avenue. But even that work wasn’t completed before the other issues slowed and ultimately halted construction efforts. Another $74.75 million went to licensing costs alone.

With the Stadium Casino project also approved for a mini-casino in Westmoreland County, it’s easy to see why Cordish was excited to announce their plan to buy out Greenwood.

“We at Cordish are excited to now immediately get to work on constructing and opening two first-class casinos for Pennsylvania, which will create thousands of new, quality jobs for local residents, and hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes for the Commonwealth,” said Joe Weinberg, managing member of the newly formed Stadium Casino Baltimore Investors LLC.

Starting anew … in 2020

About a month ago, efforts to tear down the defunct Holiday Inn stopped. Shortly after that, rumors began to swirl that not only the casino license — but the entire project — may be up for sale.

Now, we know that Cordish will be taking the lead.

The updated timeline isn’t likely to make many Philadelphians who are interested in table games and slots very happy.

Stadium Casino Baltimore Investors LLC recently requested a three-year extension on the project’s expected launch. That would put the open date in December 2021.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulators responded by offering a two-year extension.

That date would be mid-December 2020.

Even with a corporate restructuring, PGCB is adamant that two years should be plenty of time to complete construction.

If this all seems like quite a lot of hassle, you’re not alone.

But there’s a good reason for Cordish to be so committed to seeing Stadium Casino, as well as their mini-casino project, through to fruition.

Money.

But not just the potential profit they’ll be making — the millions they’ve already invested.

Combining the $74.75 million in slot machine and table games licensing fees with the $40.1 million to obtain its mini-casino license and the fee for a PA gambling license, and Cordish has already invested upwards of $150 million.

They’re surely hoping their next crack at the project doesn’t come with too many complications.

Three PA Online Casino Applicants, Will More Apply In Time?

Parx, Stadium Casino, and Mount Airy all applied for the comprehensive online gaming licenses, but did any other casinos sneak in before the deadline?

Up until this past week, not a single Pennsylvania casino applied or petitioned for an online gambling license of any form.

That changed on Thursday when Philadelphia’s Parx Casino became the first of three casinos to apply for the $10 million all-in-one online gambling license.  It includes licenses for online table games, poker, and slots.

Casinos had until July 15 to apply for the all-in-one license. With the deadline now passed, casinos must pay the a la carte price of $4 million for a slots, table games, or a poker license.

The three applicants: Parx, Mount Airy, Stadium

One of the more interesting facets of the online gambling applications is the fact that the three casinos which applied reflect three different types of PA casinos.

Parx is the state’s flagship casino. Its revenue numbers consistently reach the top spot. This past June, it was the only casino to surpass $30 million in slots revenue ($34.84 million). It finished over $10 million ahead of over runner-up Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

Mount Airy, on the other hand, is one of the state’s lowest-grossing properties. The property brought in $12.85 million in slots revenue this past month. That is roughly 36 percent of what Parx earned in June.

The final applicant is a yet-to-be-constructed property owned by Stadium Casino LLC.

Applicants all have mini-casinos too

Parx, Mount Airy, and Stadium Casino have the distinction of being the only casinos to apply for both an all-inclusive gambling license as well as a satellite casino license.

This licensed triumvirate now has the luxury of earning revenue from three different sources: land-based casino, online casino, and satellite casino.

Exactly how much revenue they’ll earn through these two new streams is a figure yet to be estimated. There’s a good chance we’ll know the online gambling figures sooner than later. After all, neighboring New Jersey has shown that the path from licensure to a fully operational casino can take just a matter of months.

Satellite casinos are a whole different beast. Construction needs to begin, staff needs to be hired, permits need to be secured, and a litany of other small details need to be finalized.

There’s a good chance the first satellite casino won’t be open for at least 18 months.

Down the road: A la carte applications ahead?

With the deadline passed you have to wonder if any other PA casinos will make a move to get an individual license for table games, slots, or poker.

Likely candidates may be casinos who’ve yet to spend money on satellite casinos. These are:

Of these eight casinos, owners of some of these casinos have partnerships in other states with online gambling operators. Others also have deals in place with iGaming providers.

Failed Foxwoods Casino Inches Closer To Getting $50 Million Back

Their attempts to launch a casino failed, but the Mashantucket Pequot tribe is having more success getting their $50 million license fee back.

Having plans fall through doesn’t usually cost you $50 million.

However, that’s exactly what happened when Foxwoods Development Corporation (FDC) took a one-third share of the development group, Philadelphia Entertainment & Development partners, who paid a $50 million licensing fee for one of two casino licenses made available by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in 2006.

The casino never materialized and now FDC and its partners are fighting to get their $50 million back, a fight that took a positive step in their favor earlier this month when a federal judge sent the group’s case back to the bankruptcy court that initially ruled the licensing fee couldn’t be refunded.

How Foxwoods ended up where they are

FDC is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, the group whose Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut is the second-largest in the United States.

They, along with other investors, paid for a casino license in 2007. Over the next four years, they, along with their partners, bounced between casino locations and owners.

The original plan was to build the casino in South Philadelphia. However, local pushback forced them to pivot to downtown Philly.

They redoubled their efforts by bringing in famed developer Steve Wynn, who wanted to move the casino back to South Philly. Wynn couldn’t get the job done. He later exited the project.

The development group hired Harrah’s Entertainment to do what Wynn couldn’t. Unfortunately, Harrah’s missed a crucial permit deadline and, like their predecessor, withdrew from the project.

The development group continued to miss deadlines and, eventually, their license was revoked in 2010.

Bankruptcy court, district judge rule against Foxwoods

FDC and their partners were determined to get their licensing fee back, so they filed for bankruptcy on April 1, 2014, in the hopes that the bankruptcy court would return the fee.

At that time, Philly Live reported, the development group owed more than $85 million to lenders and law firms.

The bankruptcy court did not concede the $50 million refund, leaving the development group in deep debt.

Foxwoods and their partners continued to push their case through the legal system. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph E. Leeson, Jr., upheld the bankruptcy court’s decision.

Appeals court reverses decision

The Foxwoods saga took another turn earlier this year when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed Leeson’s decision.

The court gave Lesson the option of keeping the case for himself, Philly Live reported, or sending it back to bankruptcy court. Leeson chose to send the case back.

The issue is “fraudulent transfer”

When the case goes before the bankruptcy court, there will be another review of the principle of fraudulent transfer.

This principle has two aspects to it: actual fraud and constructive fraud. Based on an analysis from Irvine, CA, law firm Cadden & Fuller, constructive fraud boils down to one of two circumstances: the debtor (Foxwoods) pays for something that doesn’t have equal value to what they paid, or the debtor isn’t able to pay their debts because of the payment.

Foxwoods’ argument would seem to be that of constructive fraud. Either they believe the casino license wasn’t worth the $50 million they paid or that the payment is what made them unable to pay their outstanding debt.

Satellite Casino Bachelor: Suitors Line Up To Win Stadium’s Rose

With a lucrative satellite casino up for grabs, communities across Westmoreland County are wooing Stadium Casino LLC to partner on the project.

The suitors are lining up.

In January, Stadium Casino LLC won the second of 10 satellite casino licenses the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) auctioned off as part of the state’s gambling expansion package passed in Oct. 2017.

The group is about to start the demo at the property upon which it will build Philly Live! casino. It also designated a 15-mile circle within Westmoreland County as the site of its satellite casino. Now, according to several news outlets, towns are lining up to woo the county’s first satellite casino.

The communities in the running for the casino are, according to Trib Live:

  • Derry
  • Greensburg
  • Hempfield
  • Unity
  • Salem

Towns hoping for satellite benefits

A satellite casino is smaller than existing brick-and-mortar casinos. There is a limit of 750 slots and 40 table games. Nonetheless, it still represents a tremendous revenue opportunity for the townships that end up with them.

A satellite casino means increased traffic, which means more revenue for:

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping areas
  • Hotels and motels

Local leaders are aware of the economic benefits of a satellite casino and, as one township supervisor commented, “they all want it.”

Hempfield is of particular interest because the town commercial development has “declined by about 40 percent over the last three years.”

Local residents were quick to point out via Facebook comments that a new casino also has its distinct disadvantages.

One alleged resident of Hempfield was worried that a new casino would pull people away from local bingo games that raise money for community services.

Another commenter whose hometown was listed as Greensburg scoffed at his city officials’ claims that the town lacks the infrastructure.

One trip down Route 136 will prove that the infrastructure isn’t quite where it needs to be, implying that the road’s poor condition belies officials’ claims.

Strategy is the name of the satellite game

Satellite casino locations are almost as important as the satellite themselves. Casinos jockey for locations that allow satellites (some counties opted out) and are close to big populations.

Place a satellite between a casino and its commuters and you’re bound to earn the business of gamblers who don’t want to drive farther away to their favorite casino floor.

Stadium Casino LLC’s selection of Westmoreland County is an advantageous one. It captures westbound traffic heading into Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in the state.

Meanwhile, Mount Airy, winner of the state’s third satellite auction, selected Lawrence County. The location is north of Pittsburgh and captures the wager-hungry living in the surprisingly populated Youngstown, OH area. The city’s urban area is home to more than 500,000 people.

Pittsburgh’s lone casino, Rivers, will most likely lose customers from the Youngstown area as well as from the less-populated counties to the east of the city.

Little about the PGCB’s satellite license auctions has been predictable. Still, it may be a foregone conclusion that Rivers will win one of the remaining six licenses in order to shore up the customer base.

The PGCB satellite auctions continue until all 10 licenses have a buyer or there are no bidders. Should any licenses remain, the board will open up the auction to Valley Forge and Lady Luck. These Category 2 properties are not allowed to bid during the initial round of auctions, per the rules of the state’s gambling expansion bill.

Appeals Court Says PA Needs To Give Foxwoods Its $50 Million Back

After Foxwoods failed to build a Philadelphia, it sued to get its $50 million license fee back from PA. The 3rd Circuit Appeals court agrees the state should pay up.

The Mashantucket Pequot Indians were on top of the world less than 20 years ago. Today, they’re hurting.

This past week the Connecticut Indian tribe and its partners when, according to New London (CT) newspaper The Day reported the consortium achieved a small victory when the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of a bankruptcy court who said the tribe’s development group wasn’t entitled to $50 million they invested in a failed plan to build a casino in Philadelphia.

Should the development group win the appeal, it is unclear how the partners will divide the money.

The Foxwoods-Philly saga started in 2006

The name of the tribe’s development group was Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners. The faction included Philadelphia businessmen who joined the tribe in their efforts to bring Philly its first casino.

The development bought one of two available casino licenses for $50 million back in 2006. Over the next three years, numerous delays and mistakes tanked the casino development. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) revoked the group’s license in Dec. 2010, ending four years of frustration.

The failed casino venture compounded the Pequot tribe’s financial issues. Dissension among tribal leaders and a costly casino expansion with MGM dragged the tribe into dark days.

A 2007 article from the New York Times talks about the tribe’s extensive wealth and how  a group of less than 100 Native Americans created one of the most profitable casinos in the world and bring unprecedented wealth to its people.

However, by 2014 the tribe was on the hook for $1.7 billion in debt. The tribe accrued much of that debt when it expanded its casino property. Not long after, competing casinos in the state and across state lines siphoned away gamblers.

Downtown Philly’s second casino is on its way

When the Pequots’ development group won the bid for one of two Philly casino licenses in 2006, the City of Brotherly Love looked poised to burst onto the gambling scene. SugarHouse also won a license that year. Only one casino survived.

Fast forward to 2018. Twelve years later, downtown Philly is getting its second casino. Stadium Casino LLC has plans to start development this year on Philly Live!, a property that will provide some serious competition for old-guard casino SugarHouse.

In addition to securing the permits to start demo on the site of their future casino, Stadium Gaming upped the proverbial ante when it was announced this past month they won the second satellite casino license auction in Harrisburg.

Both of these projects, however, aren’t scheduled to be completed anytime soon. Philly Live! has a 2020 target date and there’s still no word on when the satellite casino is scheduled to start.

Stadium Casino’s play for the satellite was a significant one because the group will build just 40 miles east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County. What makes this move interesting is that Pittsburgh has been the home turf for Rivers Casino, whose owners, Rush Street Gaming, also own SugarHouse.

Photo by Boston Globe / Getty Images

In The City Of Brotherly Love, There’s About To Be A Casino War

Now that Stadium Gaming LLC has its permit to begin demo and start building, it is ready to see if Philly Live! can give SugarHouse Casino a run for its money.

There’s a war brewing in Philadelphia.

Earlier this week, Stadium Casino LLC obtained the permit they need to begin demo on a lot in South Philadelphia’s sports district that is currently home to a Holiday Inn hotel.

According to Philly.com, the development will clear the land and build a casino, making it the second casino within the city limits. SugarHouse is and was none too pleased about the plans. The existing Pennsylvania casino even launching an appeal to block the permit from being awarded to their new competitors.

The permit was issued a little more than two months after the operator of a rival venue, SugarHouse Casino, dropped an appeal of the gaming license granted to Cordish and Greenwood’s group following the enactment of a new state law that undercut the challenge,” Philly.com reported.

New casino will be name Live! Hotel & Casino

Cordish Cos and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment are the two firms which comprise Stadium Casino LLC.

Earlier this week, Cordish released details about the project. The statement revealed both specifics on the property as well as conceptual drawings of the casino.

According to the company’s project page for the property, Live! is a $600 million development that will include:

  • A hotel
  • Gaming floor
  • Up to five restaurants and nightclubs.

“The project will create the first comprehensive gaming, resort, entertainment and sports destination in the United States, making it a true regional destination,” the site said.

The plans for Live! have been listed on the site for several months, but it wasn’t until they obtained the permit that the project went from concept to concrete.

Barring any setbacks over funding or permits, the project should be ready to open in 2020.

SugarHouse’s reign over Philly coming to an end

Philadelphia has been SugarHouse territory since casinos were first allowed in the state in 2006. In 2017, Sugarhouse held a solid third place in Pennsylvania’s table games revenue. It was middle-of-the-pack in slots revenue. In both of those categories together, SugarHouse brought in more than $296 million in gross revenue.

All this to say that SugarHouse is one of the state’s major players. It is certainly the reigning king of Philly. Exactly how much of that revenue will walk into the competing casino is yet to be seen. After all, predictions are tenuous, at best, but there’s a good chance their numbers will drop. Hence, the appeal to block the license.

As far as revenue predictions go, the state’s 12 casinos will be competing for the biggest portion from the dinner table. While Sands and Parx are the state’s biggest revenue-earners and SugarHouse has formidable numbers, the launch of a new flagship casino as well as the possibility of up to 10 satellite casinos could do some damage to their yearly gross revenue.

That possibility became more of a reality when Stadium Gaming was the highest bidder for a satellite casino they’ll build just 40 miles away from Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County. It remains to be seen if and when SugarHouse will make a move for one of the eight remaining satellite licenses.