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PHILADELPHIA-As it plans to pursue one of two Category 2 gaming licenses to be granted here, Atlantic City-based Trump Entertainment Resorts has formed a partnership with a group of local investors headed by Pat Croce, former president and co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, who is now an author and motivational speaker. The Trump organization recently signed a ground-lease option on an 18-acre site at the former Budd Co. manufacturing complex, which is being redeveloped by Conshohocken-based Preferred Real Estate Investments.

This summer, Croce expressed interest in assembling investors to build a casino on the site of the former Adam’s Mark Hotel, which was acquired by Target. But Target, which plans a store there, refused to sell.

Croce tells GlobeSt.com that the initial Trump plans, unveiled to Mayor John Street on Dec. 1 by Trump and James B. Perry, the Trump organization’s new CEO, “would cost about $350 million. I’m putting up a minority stake in the project. I don’t want to be a passive investor.” Among the local investors he’s enlisted are the three members of the musical group Boyz II Men and Pete Ciarrocchi, the Pete of Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurants, which has three locations here and plans for another in Bordentown, NJ.

Of the Trump plan, Croce says, “it’s not going to have the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. It won’t be so ostentatious and will include restaurants and entertainment. Our plan represents a great opportunity to bring tremendous benefit to the surrounding community. It is built on the shared belief that a successful business comes from serving the community.”

In a statement, Perry says, “Croce and his team of investors share our vision for developing a project with the financial strength to drive economic development in the area.” A local spokesperson for the Trump organization declined to reveal details of the plan. Other calls to Trump were not returned by deadline.

Applications for the gaming licenses are due to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Dec. 28 and licenses are to be issued by the end of 2006. The license allows for the initial operation of up to 3,000 slot machines in each of two Philadelphia locations and the ability to apply for an additional 2,000 at each. In mid-November, Planet Hollywood unveiled plans for Riverwalk Casino, a $380-million facility for the northern section of Delaware Avenue, also considered favorable by the local gaming advisory board. Ameristar withdrew plans for a casino at that site.

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