- They’re off in Pennsylvania, as all are ashore that’s going ashore, swept up in the tide of an expanded gaming program that far exceeds that of other pari-mutuel states. The deadline for applications for slots licenses passed on Wednesday, and with licenses virtually guaranteed for the state’s four existing racetracks and three more yet to be built (with one harness casino license still to be determined), the fiercest competition will be for the five standalone casinos, two of which will be in Philadelphia. Five applicants, including a partnerships led by Donald Trump, are vying for two licenses in Philadelphia.
The Trump group made a typically glitzy show out of their application delivery.
Trump and other investors already spent "millions" paying more than 100 people to compile a 1,559-pound application. It was delivered yesterday in 28 file boxes and four large silver cases similar to ones roadies use to carry gear to concert venues. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Foxwoods leads another partnership, a group which includes investors such as Quincy Jones and Flyers’ owner Ed Snider. A Chicago-based company bought an old Jack Frost sugar refinery for $450 million and submitted an application under the name Sugar House Gaming. Planet Hollywood and Pinnacle are the other applicants.
A number of people involved in the bidding are former government officials, including aides to Governor Ed Rendell, as detailed in this article in the Philly Inquirer. But all concerned insist that the final selections will be based on merit and not on political connections.
David Sweet, Rendell's campaign manager in 2002 who is named as a partner in a proposed casino in Limerick, echoed the sentiment: "The gaming board is going to make the decisions - and they are all very reputable and very independent people. They will be judging the applications on their merit."That already seems apparent based on these remarks by former 76ers president Pat Croce, an investor in the Trump group: "Politics is involved in every decision ... I'd be foolish to say it isn't.....If it comes down to politics, we won't win. If it comes down to the best application, we'll win." [Pittsburgh Post Gazette]
Added Gaming Control Board Chairman Tad Decker: "We all were sworn in and promised to act in good faith when we took on this assignment... . I trust the people who are on the board. They have been excellent so far."
But Decker, who was appointed by Rendell, acknowledged that there was no "100 percent cement fire wall" between the board and those seeking licenses - and that nothing the board did would prevent people with money, clout and political connections from getting involved in gambling ventures.
If the board doesn't follow the letter of the law, not only are its members at risk of losing credibility and the public's trust, but they also could face damaging and costly litigation.
Nonetheless, Decker said, the board will face political pressures. If nothing else, he said, rejected applicants could always raise the specter of unfair practices.
"Someone will be always be disappointed," he said. "And politics will rear its head no matter what we do." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
- It seems strange that an organization teetering on financial solvency can have as much leverage as NYRA seems to have, but bankruptcy protection is a powerful tool. With the association threatening to file any day now (they claim to have enough cash to get them through this weekend), it seems that the state is blinking first, negotiating with NYRA to accept its bailout/loan plan. Maybe the state is not so anxious after all to have the question of who owns the land that the tracks sit on answered in court at this time. Or maybe they’re simply afraid of a shutdown in racing that would hurt the state coffers. But it almost seems as if NYRA has the upper hand in the talks, insisting that they have not yet accepted the state’s offers despite the insistence of Senator Bruno that they have.
"Until we see it in writing on paper, we don't want to come out and say we have a deal," [NYRA VP Bill] Nader said late Thursday afternoon. "We're optimistic we have a deal. This is a big moment for us. We want to make sure that we're in complete understanding what the offer is. We want to make sure there aren't too many strings attached and the deal points are things we can deliver on." [Daily Racing Form]- As noted by Walter, the long-awaited debut of Bob Baffert’s Derby contender in waiting and potential Fastest Horse in the World Point of Impact (Point Given) will apparently take place in the 6th at Santa Anita on Saturday, thus getting in the requisite race at two on the last day of the year. The Racing Form shows impressive works going back to October, but in fact, he’s been working fast and creating a buzz since long before that. A Google search turned up chat room discussions of the colt going back to August when he worked a bullet five furlongs in :58.60, and even to June, when many people didn’t even know his name. They'll know it on Saturday when he makes one of the most highly anticipated racing debuts of recent times.