The Gambling Dilemma – Guest Post
October 20, 2009 by admncc
This may be a first for The Constant Complainer. A reader was so compelled to respond to a post, that rather than typing a comment, he wrote an opinion. Leo Nevoli contacted me last night regarding Neo Con Don’s casino guest post. He raises some interesting points. And like I was saying yesterday, whether you gamble or not (or this has affected your city or not), you’ll probably have an opinion on it. So enjoy both posts and without further adieu, here’s Leo…
It was my intention to give a simple reply to Neo Con Don’s Casi “NO” – Guest Post. I was going to agree with NCD, and quickly point out some faults in the Pennsylvania slot casino licenses, and how they were awarded. Then with ReformingGeek‘s comment about wanting to know the model of other state’s legislation, I asked CC to just do a follow-up post complaining about how Pennsylvania awarded their slot licenses, because I enjoy complaining about that fiasco.
I am sure casinos will work under the following conditions:
- They are set up properly, as in location and ownership.
- Politicians stay out of the selection process for anything related to casinos.
- States do not do what Pennsylvania did with their slot casinos.
Here is some basic background info about how casinos came to Pennsylvania. They were includes as part of the budget when Ed Rendell took over as Governor in 2002. Casinos were going to help lower property taxes, and the estimated revenue would help balance the budget. Rendell even had a hand in selecting three of the seven PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB) members. The “leadership” of the Pennsylvania General Assembly selected the remaining four. The taxpayers had no say in the board members, and these members decided who got the five casino licenses after several public hearings through out the state. These members were seven people who never lived in PA or they lived in PA at one time.
In December 2006, this wonderful board awarded the licenses. One of the Philadelphia licenses went to one gentleman who won has been under investigated by the Federal Government for possible organized crime activity. I find it funny that the Feds have been investigating this guy long before he applied for the slot licenses. The Pittsburgh casino license was awarded to Don Barden, who if the PGCB did their background checks, would have discovered Mr. Barden did not have the money to build a casino. In 2008, Mr. Barden ran out of money, and could not pay the loans or bills, or get additional loans. Construction was stopped for several weeks on the casino until Neil Blum bought controlling interest in the project, thus giving Mr. Barden a minority interest in the casino. The Pittsburgh casino did open in August 2009, while the two Philadelphia casinos have yet to begin construction. In fact, one of them had to get permission to find a new location because they met opposition from local residents.
When it came to awarding the slot license in Pittsburgh, there was the issue of a new multi-purpose arena for the City of Pittsburgh. One applicant, the Isle of Capri (IOC), pledged to give a gift of $290 million towards a new facility within 90 days of being awarded the license. This meant $290 million to the city, county, and state that could be considered profit even before the first slot machine was installed. IOC was paying for an arena, and the Pittsburgh Penguins would cover any excess construction costs. Bottom line there was no taxpayer money being used for the new facility, even if IOC folded in a few years, sold their interest or did not build the casino. In an attempt to make all bids “fair,” Rendell asked the remaining applicants for the Pittsburgh casino to include in their proposals a contribution of $7.5 million a year for 30 years for an arena, which they all did. This totals $225 million, so the difference would need to come from taxpayers.
As for that arena payment, the first $7.5 million payment was due October 1, 2009. It was not made, and a new PA budget was passed after October 1st which included table games for casinos. Rivers Casino is looking forward to having table games, but some politicians want them to make arena payments first, so on October 7th, Rivers made a $2.35 million “good faith payment” on the arena. I want to know how it is a “good faith payment” if you were supposed to make the full payment originally?
I still don’t know who is making payments on the construction of the arena, and I am also waiting on the property relief these casinos were suppose to provide me, because so far the open casinos in PA have yet to reach the revenues they anticipated. So if Ohio does pass casinos, take a page from the state of PA, and don’t do what they did. I’m Leo Nevoli, and that’s my ponderings.
***This sentence inserted by The Constant Complainer. Coming up next – complaints about the ballon boy story…