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PHILADELPHIA-In response to vigorous protests by an alliance of neighborhood and civic groups over the selected sites for the Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos here, Gov. Ed Rendell writes, “I must reluctantly inform you that the issue of re-siting is over.” Attached to his letter to the Philadelphia Neighborhood Alliance are copies of letters he received from the chairmen of both casino developers saying they have reviewed, but rejected, alternative sites.

SugarHouse plans a $550-million casino project on 22 acres at N. Delaware Avenue and Shackamoxon Street along the Delaware River. Foxwoods’ $560-million casino complex is to be located further south on a 16.5-acre parcel along the riverfront at Columbus Boulevard and Tasker Street. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board granted licenses for the two Philadelphia stand-alone casinos to these projects in December 2006. In his letter, Rendell reiterates the position he previously told members of the alliance, which is “the commonwealth has no authority to require them to accept alternative sites.”

However, the alliance, which is a coalition of 24 community groups, vows to fight on. A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would require a 1,500-foot buffer between casinos and residences. The alliance, as GlobeSt.com previously reported, has been waging a battle against the two selected sites since they were announced.

Matt Rubin, an alliance delegate from the Northern Liberties neighborhood, which is near the SugarHouse site, says in a statement, “the governor certainly has the power to intervene on our behalf. He could state his public support for HB 1477 [the bill], for one.” Rubin charges, “the legitimate concerns of residents have been willfully ignored. …We will not sit idly by and watch our communities be destroyed.”

Meanwhile, the PGCB has turned down the two casino developers’ requests for an extension of time to pay their $50-million licensing fees. They based their requests on delays in development approvals. In a 6-to-0 vote, PGCB denied an extension and is requiring Foxwoods and SugarHouse to pay up by Friday, Oct. 12.

Mary DiGiacomo Colins, the board’s new chairman, says in a statement, “the delays to gain all necessary approvals to begin construction should not have been unexpected.” She adds that delays in payments “would be inequitable to both other licensees [granted elsewhere in the state]…and to taxpayers who are promised these revenues under the gaming act.”

SugarHouse will meet the licensing fee deadline, according to a spokesman. Regarding groundbreaking, he tells GlobeSt.com, “we still await zoning approval at the city level. Our hope is that it will happen within the next couple of months. We’re ready to go.” A call to a Foxwoods spokesman was not returned by deadline.

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