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PHILADELPHIA-As the Dec. 28 deadline for applications for Pennsylvania gaming licenses closes, two major companies join the race to obtain one of two licenses to be awarded for stand-alone casinos in Philadelphia.

Chicago-based Midwest Gaming & Entertainment unveils plans for a $450-million Sugarhouse Gaming facility at the former Jack Frost sugar refinery site on Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon St. Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment says it will seek a license for a facility along I 95 just north of the city. They join a Trump-led partnership and another headed by Planet Hollywood, which also submitted applications. For previous coverage, click here.

Neil G. Bluhm, a founder and president of Chicago-based JMB Realty, heads Midwest Gaming and is chairman of the Sugarhouse Gaming partnership. It also includes Daniel Keating, head of locally based Keating Group, which developed the Hyatt Regency at Penn’s Landing among other area projects, along with additional local-area business leaders.

Sugarhouse Gaming acquired the now-vacant 18-acre parcel from Los Angeles-based LHTW Corp. for an undisclosed price. The 1.3-million-sf casino complex will contain a 365,000-sf, low-rise gaming space for 3,000 slot machines, a variety of restaurants, a 25,000-sf event center and 3,000-vehicle parking space. Phase II calls for a second 232,160-sf casino area and a 500-room hotel along with expanded dining facilities, a health spa and additional parking. The architect is locally based Cope Linder Architects.

Greg Carlin, president of Sugarhouse Gaming, says that if it is awarded a license, “in order to generate the maximum tax revenue in the shortest amount of time, Sugarhouse plans to open a temporary facility within nine months of licensing. One option under consideration is to relocate an existing riverboat casino on the waterfront that can house up to 1,500 slot machines.”

Without any local fanfare, Pinnacle posted an announcement on its website confirming it has entered into an option to buy land here and is seeking a gaming license. Its proposed casino would contain “approximately 3,000 slot machines, multiple bars and restaurants and a multiplex movie theater,” according to the announcement.

The statement, dated on the day of the deadline for applications, says the company is still in the process of finalizing details, and estimates the cost of Phase I at between $250 million and $400 million. “Possible future expansion opportunities include expanding the casino to a total of 5,000 slot machines and adding a hotel tower,” according to the statement. Calls to Pinnacle were not returned by deadline.

Meanwhile, Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming has dropped its plan to partner in seeking a license for a stand-alone casino in Allentown. The company has submitted an application for one of the seven ‘racino” licenses to be granted for race tracks in the state. Because it already owns and operates one gaming facility in Pennsylvania–Penn National Race Course in Grantville near Harrisburg–the state law prohibits it from owning more than a 33% stake in another state gaming facility. In all, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will grant five category two licenses for standalone slots facilities. Two will be granted for Philadelphia, one for Pittsburgh, with the remaining ones in undesignated areas, which could include Allentown.

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