The proposed Philadelphia Live! Hotel and Casino has been in a holding pattern the last three years due to legal challenges. But with the passage of HB 271, it is now expected to begin construction next year and finish sometime in 2020.
Since 2014, Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino had a major objection to the project, citing Pennsylvania gambling regulations limiting ownership of multiple properties. SugarHouse dropped their lawsuit against Live earlier this month.
Among the many aspects of HB 271 – the bill that will officially many forms of online gambling – the legislation will expedite approval of the long-delayed project
Notably, the repeal of this passage of makes the opposition of SugarHouse Casino a moot point with the removal of this passage:
“No slot machine licensee, its affiliate, intermediary, subsidiary or holding company may possess an ownership or financial interest that is greater than 33.3% of another slot machine licensee or person eligible to apply for a category 1 license, its affiliate, intermediary, subsidiary or holding company.”
Pennsylvania has a lot to gain through the approval as well. The state will receive $50 million from Philly Live in exchange for their lucrative slots license.
What is Philadelphia Live?
Philadelphia Live! is a proposed project owned by Cordish Companies and Greenwood Racing, the same group that launched Maryland Live, a popular casino in that state that started accepting bets in 2013. Philadelphia Live is currently scheduled to go live in South Philadelphia near Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park and the Wells Fargo Center.
Other Pennsylvania casinos had balked at Philly Live due to the fact that Watche “Bob” Manoukian owns 85% of the Parx Casinos. Manoukian also would own about a third of the Live! Casino
Live!, which will cost $600 million, is expected to launch in 2020 and feature over 2,000 slots, 30 poker tables and 100 table games. It is anticipated to generate $300 million in gaming revenue annually. It will be located in South Philadelphia
What does Philly Live mean for online gambling in Pennsylvania?
The decision to approve Philadelphia Live has ramifications for online gambling in Pennsylvania as well. Because the passed bill authorizes a number of comprehensive online gambling license equal to the number of brick and mortar casinos in the state, the number of online casinos in the state will also increase by one.
There are currently twelve casinos in Pennsylvania before this bill passed in late October. With the approval of Philadelphia Live!, that number will increase to 13. The 13th license will become official once Philly Live! pays the $50 million for its slot license.
As for which casinos ultimately offer online gambling, it is widely expected that most of the 12 casinos + Philly Live! will apply for some version of the license. The one likely abstainer – Sands Bethlehem – is likely to decline a license. Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has been a vocal opponent – in fact the biggest opponent – to online gambling over the last half decade.
The decline of an online gambling license by Sands Bethlehem will free up a license for a non-Pennsylvania company in early 2018.