Parties Change Their Mind Regarding Slots in Philadelphia
On March 26, 2007, both city and the state lawyers claimed that it would not be a good decision for the City Council to approve a May 15, 2007 vote to decide on whether to give 2 state-licenses to the slots casinos located in the Delaware Rive waterfront.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has repeatedly blocked the city's plans to make laws that are against the state. For example, in 1996, the Supreme Court blocked a local ban regarding assault weapons. Most experts on the matter agree that the Supreme Court can step in again if the residents of Philadelphia decide to remove the 2 casino establishments.
However, after reviewing the statements and arguments about the casino plans by staunch critics and reading the 2006 law which legalized the slot parlors, some of those experts commented that it is not an open and shut case and that the current law may give permission to the city to decide on where the slots casinos can be built. But that does not leave the critics of the casino plan without any responsibility.
The Gaming Control Board of Pennsylvania said that they will take legal proceedings against any proposal or bill that will try to overturn their December 20, 2006 decision, which awarded the Foxwoods Casino, located in South Philadelphia and the Sugar House Casino in Fishtown, the 2 slot licenses.
The referendum will ask the voters whether the casinos should not be allowed to build 1,500 ft from homes, schools, churches and parks in the state, which will make it virtually impossible. The gaming bill was modified back in 2006 to appoint the Supreme Court as the mediator on all casino related zoning cases and award the Gaming Control Board the lone regulatory power to allow any gaming related activities in the state.
Chief Counsel for State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, a Democrat from Philadelphia,, said that it only means that the legislature has confirmed the gaming authority of the board in determining the location of the casino. City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. made the same statement. Nonetheless, the other lawyers who have read the gambling proposal said that lone zoning power is not included in it.
Wendell Pritchett, a Professor from the University of Pennsylvania, commented that the state legislature should have made it clear that they were superseding the gaming board, but they did not do anything about it.
However, Craig also commented that the 1,500 ft condition cannot be legalized because it is not considered a zoning ordinance, but rather, an attempt to put some regulation on the gaming activities in the area, if not totally ban slot machines.
Gaming Control Board Chief Counsel, Atty. Frank Donaghue agrees with this statement. He said that the main purpose of the modification of the law is not to allow zoning, but to prohibit casinos in the city by not leaving any location for the casinos to be built.
An environmental and land use lawyer for the Casino Free Philadelphia organization, Paul Boni, which started the voter's referendum, said that it is not really significant for what the legislature has tried to do.
The Sugar House Casino has declined to comment for the time being and the Spokesman for the Foxwoods Casino said that all of this is just the opinion of an individual and organization at this point.