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The Many Troubles of Life! Philadelphia Casino

16 January 2024

The many troubles of life in Philadelphia

In 2017, the state accepted proposals to construct a second casino in Philadelphia, and the application’s winner had a lot of issues to deal with before the construction ever began, and even, as iGamingPENN found out, alleged racial business practices.

The Tumultuous Battle for Live! Philadelphia Hotel and Casino

The company in charge of the casino project, Stadium Casino, LLC, had to wait for a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over a case that questioned whether the state Gaming Control Board was right to grant Stadium a license. The lawsuit was filed by SugarHouse Casino, which is a rival to any second casino in the area, as well as a group that was not awarded the license.

Developers were waiting for the court to make a decision before moving forward with the $500 million project. Then, a representative for Cordish Companies, the developer behind the Live! Philadelphia project stated that there has been “no update” about the state of construction. Messages requesting an update on the project’s status were not answered by other stakeholders, including the attorneys representing the opposing parties. Live! Philadelphia had a lot of plates spinning at the same time.

The Lawsuit

From 2015 to 2017, the challenge brought against Stadium Casino and the Gaming Control Board was a ping-pong match between the two plaintiffs who were trying to delay the project.

Along with SugarHouse, Market East Associates was one of four organizations that applied for a casino license; the Stadium Casino company won the contest in November 2014. Market East Associates intended to construct a $500 million casino.

The plaintiffs said that Watche “Bob” Manoukian of Greenwood, one of the main Live! Philadelphia project benefactors would have an ownership stake over the maximum permitted under state law.

In a decision that was somewhat in favor of the plaintiffs, the state Supreme Court in June 2015 sent back the decision authorizing the casino license to the Gaming Control Board, requesting that the board exercise due diligence in examining Manoukian’s business activities and the extent of ownership that he would be permitted by state law. The Gaming Control Board said a year later that it stood by its ruling: Stadium Gaming, LLC’s ownership structure and gaming license were both kosher.

Racism Allegations

A representative of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network had intended to disrupt a local Planning Commission hearing on the casino in 2015 to voice concerns over claims that Cordish Companies had engaged in discriminatory business practices. Lawsuits claiming discrimination against Black individuals in Kansas and Louisville are among many that Cordish has had to deal with.

A complaint was filed by the Human Relations Department of Kansas City, alleging that the Power & Light District in Kansas City, had discriminatory dress code policies. Former workers of Power & Light said in depositions for a lawsuit dropped in 2016 that they were instructed to restrict the number of black customers at the venue.

The Current State of Live! Philadelphia

When the state passed a gaming expansion bill in October 2017 that removed the ban on owning any number of casino locations, the matter was rendered moot. The complaint was quickly dismissed, and Cordish announced that work would start in 2018 and be finished by 2020. In January 2018, Cordish and Greenwood completed the $37 million acquisition of the facility. Cordish said in November 2018 that it would fully acquire the project by purchasing Greenwood’s stake. The COVID-19 epidemic caused the scheduled opening date to be delayed to early 2021.

On January 19, 2021, Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia launched with a number of reward members-only preview days that were reserved in advance. On February 4, 2021, the casino was opened to the public.

In a leaseback agreement, Cordish sold Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLP) the land and building in March 2022. Live! Casino Philadelphia and its sister site Live! Casino Pittsburgh were purchased by GLP for $674 million, and they were leased back to Cordish for an annual rent of $50 million.

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