Wynn Resorts withdraws River Wards casino application

With Sug­ar­House's ex­pan­sion plans poised to take off, Fishtown will see more casino space, but it won't be from casino mag­nate Steve Wynn. Now, the Gam­ing Board has to chose from five re­main­ing ap­plic­ants in grant­ing the city's second casino li­cense. 

An artist’s ren­der­ing of Steve Wynn’s pro­posed Fishtown casino and hotel. COUR­TESY OF WYNN RE­SORTS, LTD.

At 2:04 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, Wynn Re­sorts re­leased the fol­low­ing state­ment to news me­dia:

“The Wynn Re­sorts Board of Dir­ect­ors re­cently met to care­fully ex­am­ine the feas­ib­il­ity and op­por­tun­it­ies as­so­ci­ated with the com­pany’s do­mest­ic de­vel­op­ment in Phil­ad­elphia, Pennsylvania. At this time, the Board has de­cided that the best course for the com­pany is to pur­sue busi­ness op­por­tun­it­ies else­where.” 

“The board took a host of factors in­to con­sid­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the Phil­ad­elphia mar­ket per­form­ance over the past year and the com­pet­i­tion which will res­ult from the re­cent ap­prov­al of gam­ing in the State the New York. Con­se­quently, the com­pany will with­draw its li­cens­ing ap­plic­a­tions in Pennsylvania.”

Wynn’s team would not com­ment fur­ther when con­tac­ted by Star.

Ac­cord­ing to the Phil­ad­elphia In­quirer, this is the second time Las Ve­gas casino mag­nate Steve Wynn has dropped the op­tion of build­ing a casino in the city: “In April 2010, Wynn agreed to part­ner with loc­al in­vestors to sal­vage the fal­ter­ing Fox­woods pro­ject on Colum­bus Boulevard. But a week after he re­vealed his in­volve­ment, he dropped out.” 

Wynn has pro­posed a casino very sim­il­ar to the Fishtown ro­pos­al in Ever­ett, Ma., a town just out­side Bo­ston. That pro­pos­al still stands.

The Phil­ad­elphia casino was to be built, if gran­ted a li­cense, on the Delaware River wa­ter­front in Fishtown, on land north of the Sug­ar­House casino—it would have filled 70 acres along Rich­mond Street, from Schirra Drive to Columbia Av­en­ue. 

Wynn had joined five oth­er de­ve­lopers lin­ing up for a chance at se­cur­ing the city’s second casino li­cense. 

On Tues­day, Sept. 24, the Pennsylvania Gam­ing Con­trol Board had met to dis­cuss each of the de­ve­loper’s pro­pos­als.

Deputy may­or Alan Green­ber­ger said at that hear­ing that the Wynn hotel and casino pro­posed for a wa­ter­front site in the River Wards has the po­ten­tial to ac­tiv­ate un­used wa­ter­front space, but did not seem spe­cif­ic to Phil­ad­elphia, was in an isol­ated loc­a­tion, and needed more de­vel­op­ment of plans for pub­lic green space.

“A power­ful trans­form­a­tion could take place on our wa­ter­front,” Green­ber­ger told the PGCB, in ref­er­en­ce to Wynn Re­sorts’ pro­pos­al, which, in con­junc­tion with Sug­ar­House Casino, could po­ten­tially cre­ate a new en­ter­tain­ment des­tin­a­tion.

“We do have some con­cern about the ex­tent to which the es­tab­lished Wynn product has been or will be tailored more spe­cif­ic­ally to Phil­ad­elphia,” Green­ber­ger con­tin­ued. “We are aware that Wynn Re­sorts is pur­su­ing sim­il­ar op­por­tun­it­ies in oth­er mar­kets along the East Coast … We would like to hear more from the ap­plic­ant about why Phil­ad­elphia — and this some­what isol­ated site — will be par­tic­u­larly at­tract­ive to in­ter­na­tion­al vis­it­ors com­pared to ex­ist­ing Wynn re­sort des­tin­a­tions and pro­posed Wynn re­gion­al casi­nos.”

Neigh­bors at­tend­ing meet­ings of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation and Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation earli­er this year both voted in fa­vor of the Wynn pro­pos­al. The pro­pos­al has also seen pos­it­ive en­dorse­ments by the New Kens­ing­ton Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion and Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic.

Phil­adelphia City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) told Star on the phone Monday that he was shocked to hear that Wynn had with­drawn his ap­plic­a­tion.

“We had a lot of in­terest from the com­munity sur­round­ing that pro­ject, but you had heard people say­ing he would back out,” Squilla said.

“I think that would have really boos­ted that area, es­pe­cially the [river­front green space] trail part,” Squilla con­tin­ued. “I looked at it as an op­por­tun­ity for that area as well as the sur­round­ing com­munity. It’s a little dis­ap­point­ing.”

In a Feb­ru­ary present­a­tion by Wynn Re­sorts, Wynn him­self de­scribed Wynn Phil­ad­elphia as a “des­tin­a­tion re­sort,” one he said could po­ten­tially be­come “the nicest hotel on the East Coast,” cit­ing Amtrak trains as key to lur­ing in cus­tom­ers and guests from oth­er cit­ies. The Wynn casino would have boas­ted slot ma­chines, poker tables, lux­ury suites, and a 2,000-foot river­front green space as well, where Wynn said fam­il­ies could stroll in­de­pend­ently of the gambling space without get­ting “any­where near a slot ma­chine.”

The PGCB has an­nounced in Septem­ber that its fi­nal hear­ings for the ap­plic­a­tion pro­cess would be held in Janu­ary 2014. The casino li­cense, then, won’t be awar­ded to one of the now five de­ve­lopers un­til some point next year. ull;•

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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