Anti-Gambling Group Holding Out Against Second Philly Casino
There are three major new casino proposals coming to Philadelphia. One, introduced by developer Bart Blatstein, would put a casino in the Inquirer building in Center City; the second, a brainchild of Steve Wynn, would lure gambling fiends a bit north of SugarHouse in Fishtown; the third, from the mind of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, would find the city claiming ownership of a gambling house in South Philly, though, per Newsworks, would bring in someone else to conduct operations. Over the next few months, these three parties will be competing to make their dream come true. Applications are due Thursday.
Meanwhile, there’s another factor at play here. Casino-Free Philadelphia was spawned during the fight over SugarHouse’s inception on the waterfront. The group still isn’t happy about that casino’s presence in Philly, and the idea of a second one isn’t sounding too great, either.
We caught up with CFP spokesman Dan Hajdo this afternoon in advance of his group’s public discussion at 6:30 tonight at the Arch St. Methodist Church. First off, Hajdo rejects the idea that any one of the proposals might be the least of three evils. “A casino is a casino,” he says. “It really doesn’t matter.” So tonight the group will take questions from city residents about the process going forward; then, Hajdo says, those in attendance will start getting organized to “take the next steps.”
He expects this time around that the coalition will focus “on some of the more egregious things that casinos do: offering credit on the floor, staying open 24/7, giving away free alcohol—we’d like to see those things regulated to protect people.” Hajdo suggests those sorts of practices belie casinos’ regular assertions that they’re not out to exploit addictive behavior in gamblers.
Which reminds us of a favorite Ed Rendell moment. During a January 2011 appearance on 60 Minutes, Rendell made the case for bringing more gambling into Pennsylvania: He pointed out that people are going to gamble no matter what, so their misfortune might as well bring more money to their home state and not, say, to New Jersey. “People have been gambling since organized society was formed on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. They were gambling. And they will gamble as long as there’s life on this planet. And that’s a fact,” he told Leslie Stahl—before referring to her and a producer as “simpletons” and “idiots.”