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[IMGCAP(2)]HARRISBURG, PA-Gross terminal revenues from licensed casinos are expected to reach an annualized level of $2.28 billion by July 2009, after four new facilities come on line, says a report from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Speaking at PGCB’s meeting here on Thursday, Kevin Hayes, the board’s director of operations, said that current slots casino projects, scheduled to be operational by July ‘09, could add $650 million per year in revenues and create 3,750 permanent jobs along with 4,700 construction-related jobs.

[IMGCAP(1)]The new casinos include two stand-alone facilities, Sands Bethworks in Bethlehem and Majestic Star Casino in Pittsburgh; and upgrades from temporary to permanent facilities at two racetracks, the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. A board spokesman tells GlobeSt.com, the numbers are based on figures the applicants submitted in applying for their licenses.

In total, the 11 licensed casinos slated to be open as of July ’09 are scheduled to have a combined 24,123 slot machines, according to a release. Based on gross terminal revenues of $2.28 billion, the commonwealth would collect $1.23 billion in taxes annually, the largest portion of that going toward property tax relief, according to the release. Commonwealth law allows the operation of up to 62,000 slot machines in Pennsylvania, the spokesman says, adding, “currently we have 15,000 slot machines, so we’re nowhere near that number.”

According to a news release, Hayes told the board, “within the next 15 months, the Commonwealth will see an expansion of gaming which nearly parallels what we saw in the combined years of 2006 and 2007. “In particular, the tremendous scope and size of two new projects, Sands Bethworks and Majestic Star, will drive this significant increase.”

These figures do not include additional projects that have been licensed but are not scheduled to open until after July ’09. One of them is an upgrade to a permanent facility at Philadelphia Park Casino in Bensalem, currently under construction and scheduled to open late next year. Two others, SugarHouse Casino and Foxwoods Casino, both in Philadelphia, have been delayed by legal wrangling and there is no time-frame for groundbreaking, the spokesman tells GlobeSt.com.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court cleared the way for Foxwoods to proceed, ordering the City of Philadelphia to provide the necessary zoning changes, according to published reports. The court battles over SugarHouse have gone on for several months and aren’t over yet.

Last October, GlobeSt.com reported that HSP Gaming LLP, the parent company of the SugarHouse project, took the city to court over delays and in December, a group of legislators brought suit against the city and HSP to block the project. Shortly after taking office in January, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter revoked the building permit that had been granted by his predecessor, on grounds that it involved riparian rights, which can only be granted by the commonwealth. In mid-April, the commonwealth Supreme Court heard arguments from all sides in the dispute but did not indicate when it would issue a ruling, according to published reports.

The estimate in Hayes’ report also did not include three other casino licenses that could be awarded under the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. Under the act, the gaming board could award another slots operator license at a racetrack and two licenses to existing resorts. The board spokesman says there are three applicants vying for the two resort licenses. The applicant for the racetrack license, Valley View Downs, would take the last of seven such licenses available in the commonwealth.

Hearings for two of the resort licenses applicants, Bushkill Group/Fernwood Resort and Vacation Charters/Split Rock Resort, are scheduled for April 30 and May 1, respectively. The hearing for the third resort license applicant, Valley Forge Convention Center Partners, is scheduled for May 20, five days after the Valley View Downs public hearing. The board spokesman says commonwealth law provides for awarding of five stand-alone casino licenses, all of which have been spoken for.

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