Wynn appears before Pa. regulators to describe $600 million project
Wynn Resorts Ltd. plans to provide about $240 million, or up to 40 percent, of the estimated $600 million planned for building a new casino along the Philadelphia riverfront.
Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts Ltd. founder, chief executive officer and chairman, detailed the plans on Wednesday at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Wynn announced last week that it was taking over the stalled plans to develop the Philadelphia casino located along the Delaware River across from New Jersey. The three-story high casino will not include a hotel.
Wynn gave oral descriptions of his plans for the stalled project, but that didn’t pass muster with the board, which had demanded that information by Wednesday's deadline. The seven members voted unanimously to continue to fine the Foxwoods group $2,000 a day until Wynn and the original investors produce detailed documents showing how the casino would be paid for, how it would look, and how long it would take to build.
The financing information must be presented by March 31; the architectural drawings and construction timetable are due April 26. At an April 29 hearing, the board will reassess the sanctions.
Board Chairman Gregory Fajt said Wynn had given members "some glimmer of hope" that he might come up with a viable plan for the project - though not enough to overcome lingering concerns, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I'm getting more comfortable with this,” Fajt said, but added, “We'll take this one step at a time.”
Wynn was greeted with loud protests from anti-gaming activists and cheers from union tradesmen hoping for jobs when he arrived for the morning hearing. During the hearing, protesters interrupted Wynn every time he tried to speak, and he ignored their protests as they were removed from the hearing room, according to the Inquirer.
On Jan. 27, the gaming board fined Foxwoods $186,000 and threatened to revoke its license for repeatedly missing deadlines.
Last week, Wynn Resorts Ltd. came forward to salvage the foundering project.
The company signed a "term sheet" with the Foxwoods group to assume a 51 percent stake in the casino and manage it. Under the original plan, it was to be run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the flagship Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. When the project won one of two slots licenses for Philadelphia in 2006, the tribe had a 30 percent stake. The remaining 70 percent was held by 12 investors, including family charities for Center City developer Ron Rubin, New Jersey sports-team owner Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. Under the new arrangement, those charities would get just 21 percent of the casino's profit.
Wynn testified that his agreement was nonbinding and based on three conditions: The gaming board must approve him for a license, it must extend the deadline for opening the casino from May 2011 to December 2012, and the city must issue a building permit.
Should regulators decide to revoke the license of the current investor group, Wynn, after the hearing, told reporters he would try to get one on his own, the newspaper said.
Wynn also said his view of Pennsylvania gaming changed when the General Assembly approved table games in January. He explained that because the state taxes slots revenue at 55 percent, the only feasible casino would be a “slots-in-a-box.” The state's new tax on table-game revenue is 14 percent.
While he did not present regulators with drawings, Wynn described the project for them. The casino would have a portico-like entrance rising 12 feet above street level, he said. The casino floor would be designed around an atrium, with slots and table games on one level; a banquet hall, meeting rooms, and a nightclub with a view of the Delaware would be on a second level. In the middle of the first floor would be a sports bar. The front would undulate under a continuous skin. Flanking the casino would be parking structures, with no surface parking.
Wynn said he planned to adopt design elements from his Encore at Wynn Macau, to open this year. That hotel has a marble facade with brass trim and canopies.
Wynn said he had hired the Keating Group, which is building the SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown and Northern Liberties, to develop the casino. Construction could begin in six months, he said, and last 14 months. When open, he added, it should employ 2,000 full-time workers.