PHILADELPHIA-The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has a couple of busy months ahead. It has filed a suit with the State Supreme Court challenging an ordinance passed by the city council to put the location of the city’s two approved casino locations to a vote. In an unrelated matter, it has issued an update regarding eligibility for slots licenses at existing resorts and set April 20 as the opening day for applications.

In the court filing, PGCB asks for an emergency review of the city council’s ordinance, which, as previously reported, asks voters in the May 15 primary to decide on a change in the city charter that would prohibit casino development within 1,500 feet of a residence, school or certain other neighborhood properties. The PGCB suit petitions the court to remove the referendum from the ballot.

It cites portions of the state’s gaming act that give the board sole discretion over the location of slots facilities. It also charges, “the threatened operation of the ordinance causes harm on a statewide basis [and] the referendum has no legal effect because it addresses matters of statewide concern beyond the powers of the city council” under the state constitution.

In a statement, PGCB chairman Tad Decker says “Losses to citizens due to delays in opening the two Philadelphia slots facilities would be $140 million every six months, tax revenues that can never be regained.” He adds, “Placing this question on the ballot is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”

In response, Casino-Free Philadelphia, an organization that was instrumental in obtaining the city council’s passage of the referendum, charges, “Our right to vote is under attack by an out of control board.” Daniel Hunter, the organization’s coordinator, says, “Here we have the PGCB doing the casino’s dirty work.” Locations for SugarHouse and Foxwoods, the two casinos granted licenses by the board, do not conform to the referendum’s limitations.

As this plays out in court, PGCB proceeds with a second round applications for the state’s two remaining gaming licenses. These Category 3 licenses apply to “well-established resorts.” The definition of that phrase and other regulations that apply to this category came into question following the withdrawal of applications by Nemacolin Woodland Resort and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Consequently, the board amended the regulation for this category to allow the inclusion of “timeshares offered for rent to the general public” in the 275-room count, which is required. It also loosened the rules regarding how much a resort guest must spend on non-gaming amenities before gaining access to the gaming floor. The application period that begins on April 20, remains open for 60 days.

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