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Philly Casino Project Delayed After Court Ruling

Gaming Regulators Told To Review Ownership Structure

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The long-awaited Live! Hotel & Casino project in Philadelphia will need further review by state officials, according to a court ruling Tuesday.

The state Supreme Court says that regulators must continue looking at whether Watche “Bob” Manoukian, who owns roughly 85 percent of Parx, would be owning more than a third of Live!

State law wouldn’t allow him to own any more than that.

The court made a similar ruling in March 2016, further delaying the project that has been in the works for a handful of years. In December 2015, the city approved the casino, but court challenges have pushed the opening back.

The planned $450 million casino comes from Cordish Cos. of Baltimore and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, the owner of nearby Parx Casino.

SugarHouse Casino, the only other casino within city limits, challenged the state license that was awarded in 2014. The allegation is that Manoukian did sophisticated sham transactions in order to hide his real ownership stake in the project.

The court ruled this week that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board needs to keep digging to determine if the project can proceed under the current ownership structure. The Associated Press reported that the court suggested a public hearing on the matter.

Live! would be Pennsylvania’s 13th casino and the fifth in close proximity to Philadelphia.

In addition to adding another casino to boost a Pennsylvania gambling market already worth $3 billion annually, state lawmakers are considering regulated online casino games. Pennsylvania found that online casinos could add 10 percent to state casino gaming revenues.

The problem for Pennsylvania is that gaming revenues haven’t grown much since 2012.

The Live! casino complex would have two-million square feet of gaming floor space, with 2,000 slots and more than 100 table games. According to the developers, $400 million in economic benefits would be generated during construction, which includes 3,000 new jobs. Roughly 2,000 are expected to be permanent.

The casino is expected to generate gaming revenue of more than $300 million per year.