Where Will Philly’s Next Casino Be?

Irresponsibly handicapping the next great place to throw your money away.

It’s been a tough year for gambling in Philadelphia. First the lottery axed hated spokes-groundhog Gus. Then … um, well, I guess that’s it, really: Casinos aren’t growing as much with the economy, but they’re still profitable. (They’re casinos!) Mega Millions got a ton of attention with its record March jackpot. The lottery is still even using Gus’ “Keep on scratchin'” catchphrase. Sure, Sugar House Casino has two stars on Yelp, but the parking lot always seems to be full when I pass by that barn. The house always wins!

So, ah, in that case: Get ready for gambling to get even bigger in Philly! The Inquirer on Sunday published a list of confirmed and possible bids for the city’s second casino license. After years of delays, the Foxwoods casino—slated to be across from the Riverview on Columbus Boulevard—lost its license and it’s up for bid.

Of the Philadelphia area’s three casinos, Sugar House is known as the worst by far. Sure, Parx in Bensalem and Harrah’s in Chester have been open longer (and they have horses!); Valley Forge has a better setting. But the consensus is that Philly got stuck with a giant industrial-looking money pit that has nothing enticing about it—not even a poker room yet. No casino is going to be nice. But let’s take a  look at the bidders anyway.

Let’s go through the Inquirer‘s possible casino locations and assign wildly speculative, surely inaccurate odds to the bids.

Where Will Philly’s Next Casino Be?

Bart Blatstein
We learned a lot about Bart Blatstein in Steve Volk’s excellent profile of him this month. You should really read the whole thing! But in true old-school blogging fashion, let me blockquote the relevant part:

The concept takes a little explaining. But in short, about 60 feet off the ground, on rooftops extending more than a block and a half—from above the Inquirer’s old printing plant all the way to 16th Street—Blatstein plans to erect a “village reminiscent of old Europe.”

Crooked and meandering streets will weave through a collection of two- and three-story buildings housing small shops, cafes and restaurants. The two sections of the village will be connected by a “sky bridge” traversing North 15th Street. And it will include a retractable glass roof, so the weather will always be hospitable for an “outdoor” espresso, even when it’s not.

And then, below all that, a casino. Basically it’s a new urbanism version of the Pier Shops in Atlantic City. We can only hope there will be cats that live underneath like at the boardwalk.

(Note: The Volk piece also mentions that Blatstein’s “Rosebud” is legendary Northeast Philly spot Boulevard Pools! You cannot talk to old people in the Northeast for more than five minutes without someone mentioning Boulevard Pools. If North Shore Beach Club is any indication, Boulevard Pools was a shockingly entertaining place where the pools were four feet deep.)

Odds: Even

R. Donahue Peebles
Based on his name alone, R. Donahue Peebles sounds like the richest man in the history of the world. The Inquirer wasn’t able to get any details of his casino plan other than that he’s planning to bid but based on this interview from Inc. I learned he’s a shrewd businessman who takes calculated risks. “Your margins shouldn’t be so tight that you have to count pennies,” he said, which means we could be getting another slots barn.

Still, he’s a well-respected developer in D.C. and New York and his name is R. Donahue Peebles. I’ll give anyone with a name that powerful-sounding good odds.

Odds: 5/2

I was walking back to the bus around midnight after covering a Phillies game in late April and spotted a purple minivan rumbling north up S. 11th Street. It sped through the intersection and crashed through a temporary barriers in front of Citizens Bank Park. I guess everything was okay with this fine upstanding driver, because the van spun around and sped down Pattison Avenue. Immediately afterward, I heard the a voice bellow from inside Xfinity Live!: “Yo, we got room for, like, five more girls in the DJ booth.”

Anyway, can you imagine a way to make Xfinity! Live!! even more poppin’? That’s right: Turn it into a casino! The Inquirer cited sources saying Cordish—which opened Xfinity!! Live!!! earlier this year—is exploring a site in South Philly for a casino bid. The only possible place is everyone’s favorite replacement for the Spectrum. To make things even better, Cordish recently built Hard Rock Hotel and Casino locations in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida. You better believe I’d be at the Xfinity! Live! Hard! Rock! Casino! every damn night.

Odds: 6/1

Parkway Corp.
Parkway Corp. president Robert Zuritsky told the Inquirer there were “a number of sites in Center City” the company could put a casino in. The only way to look at this is to check the company’s parking garages, since that’s the closest structure to a casino. Um, the garage at 12th and Filbert has a Chili’s and this garage in Baltimore has a Best Buy. I have always been kind of fascinated by Walnut Towers. I’m not exactly sure how it fucking works. When you walk in it looks like two stories, but there’s waaaaay more on the elevator. I think it’s some Willy Wonka shit.

Odds: 10/1

James J. Anderson
This dude’s from the New Hope area. Hey, Blatstein already has the idea for a combination Peddler’s Village/casino, buddy!

Odds: 100/1

S.S. United States
If you hadn’t noticed, I was joking a little bit in my piece on Xfinity! Live. (Just a little.) But I am not joking at all in that the S.S. United States Casino would be the greatest thing to happen to this city since the combination Federal Donuts and Hop Sing Laundromat I had a dream about the other day.

If you don’t know the story of the S.S. United States, it’s a passenger liner built in 1952 which operated until 1969. It’s been docked in South Philly, slowly deteriorating, since 1996. You can see it from the Ikea! The a falling apart hulking ship from the ’50s is pretty much the coolest thing on the Delaware Riverfront, and it’d be awesome if we could keep it in Philadelphia forever.

Unfortunately, an August 2011 report “concluded that it’s not likely to work [in Philadelphia] for a variety of reasons.” So we can pretty much write off the first cool casino idea ever.

Odds: 500/1

The Goldenberg Group
This Blue Bell developer owns the parking lot that used to be the Disney Hole at 8th and Market. Ugh. If we weren’t going to get the DisneyQuest development, at least we could have kept the Disney Hole! Anyway, the chances of everything ever being built at 8th and Market is absolute zero. I think the ghost of Frank Rizzo put a curse on that site. I was going to project them at 100/1, but then I remembered the hole in Center City.

Odds: Off the board