Friday, May 14, 2010

Rolling the dice

Brace yourself. Table games are closer than you think.

The state Gaming Control Board yesterday gave the green light for Harrah’s Casino in Chester to move ahead with with poker, roulette and craps tables.

All of this is a result of Pennsylvania’s insatiable thirst for more and more gambling. Actually, it’s a lot simpler than that. The state is broke. It is for the most part out of options in terms of revenue. Hence we get more legal gambling. Actually, that’s a bit of a misnomer. The only people gambling are the players. The state and the casinos continue to rake in money.

Expansion of legalized gambling is the new Pandora’s box. Gov. Ed Rendell took us down this track when he went to Harrisburg eight years ago, fueled by his promise to use slot-machine gambling to ease the burden of property taxes in the state.

He did that, but our financial problems have not gone away. If anything, they’ve gotten worse.

Voila! Table games.

Expect Harrah’s to have their tables up and running sometime this summer. They will join the new Parx Casino at Philly Park, which has already gotten the green light, in the race to see who is rolling the dice first.

Harrah’s held a job fair earlier this week, at which hundreds showed up looking to nab one of the 500 new positions Harrah’s says are being created by table games.

But an interesting is happening just a stone’s throw down I-95.
Delaware, which had slots before Pennsylvania, also is racing to get table games up and running.

And now there is the possibility of a major competitor to Harrah’s closer than any of the three other gambling facilities in the state, the closest of which is located at Delaware Park in Stanton.

A proposal for a casino on the Wilmington Riverfront is being revisited.
This was first put on the drawing board back in 2003. Now it’s back.

Ironically, I was at the Wilmington Riverfront one day last week.
Believe me when I tell you, it could direly use a casino. Or something.
Actually, just about anything. That’s because there is very little there. Yes, they have the Blue Rocks ballpark. And a museum. And a couple of restaurants, including an Iron Hill Brewery.

But I was stunned to see that seemingly every store in what once were the bustling riverfront shops was empty. I mean every store. The only thing I found open was a Hanes underwear outlet and a deli. Everything else stood as testament to the economic challenges of the times.

Up until this point, gambling in Delaware has been limited to their three horse-racing facilities, including Delaware Park and Dover Downs.

The Legislature is considering a proposal to expand, and offer two more gaming licenses. The Wilmington riverfront is now in play.

That would not necessarily be good news for Harrah’s, where revenue was off again by about 3 percent in April.

But make no mistkae, table games are on the way.

Can sports betting be far behind?

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