Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notes & Quotes: Casino Deal Approved

Gaming Control Board

We're on the Pennsylvania Turnpike again, just heading back from Harrisburg and the Gaming Control Board vote approving transfer of control of the Pittsburgh casino license.

In the end, the vote was unanimous. Board members took great pains to emphasize that "this was not a rush to judgement" and that politics did not drive their choice. One member suggested that politics were behind some of the criticisms they faced leading up to the vote.

Here are some quotes from Billionaire casino investor Neil Bluhm, following the vote:

"If this didn't go ahead, this would be in bankruptcy, tied up for a long period of time. Instead you're going to have a wonderful casino, a great project on the river, and I'm sure the citizens of Pittsburgh will enjoy it and at the same time (it will) create a lot of jobs...."

"Tomorrow, we should be wiring funds and hopefully close on the transaction and on Monday the contractors will be back at work and we'll be on our way."

Representatives of contractors and unions had testified that some local companies could have been driven out of business by losses due to bills unpaid by Barden's PITG Gaming if it had gone bankrupt.

Ken McCabe, Gaming Board Member:
"I think if we revoke it or rebid it will only help a small group of people and would be disastrous for thousands of families, for Pittsburgh, and for the commonwealth."

Sanford Rivers, Gaming Board Member:
"Mr. Bluhm, thank you for removing the doom and gloom that hovers over the Pittsburgh casino and it's amenities."

James Ginty, Gaming Board Member:
"To deny this application would do a tremendous disservice to the people of Pittsburgh, to the citizens of Allegheny County and to the citizens of Pennsylvania.."

State Senators Jane Orie and Jim Ferlo -- who had urged the board to revoke the license -- did not come to testify. They submitted their statements in writing. Ferlo had a staffer at the hearing who provided copies to reporters. In it, he says:

" seems the board's actions are not intended to provide an open, fair. And objective public process, but instead to speedily cover its tracks."


"...the process leading up to this hearing has been shrouded in secrecy. Repeated letters requesting documentation of the buyout were either ignored or met with indifference."

"It was only last week that my office began receiving this information, which is very complicated, and it has been filled with redactions. Important names and financial numbers have been removed making discerning information from the documents difficult"

Senator Orie's office e-mailed a statement to the media, but the pdf format isn't legible on the small screen of the BlackBerry I'm using to write this post.

The gaming board staff says:

"A PowerPoint presentation made today to the Board has been posted on the PGCB web site. A link to the presentation can be found under the 'What's New' section of the PGCB's home page, .

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