Company is in negotiations to secure a 300,000-square-foot area in which to locate the casino

Slot machines could soon be competing for tourist attention with the downtown historic sites in Philadelphia, which include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the rooming house where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.

The Foxwoods Group, headed by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians of Connecticut, recently announced that it was looking into building a casino in a downtown mall called The Gallery at Market East. Foxwoods is in negotiations with the mall’s owners to secure a 300,000-square-foot area in which to locate the casino.

The location is better than an earlier waterfront site in South Philadelphia Foxwoods had sought as it is already near existing shops, restaurants and mass transit lines, the group said. And the historic area already attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, said Foxwoods group Chairman Michael Thomas.

Foxwoods gave up trying to build a casino on the Delaware River waterfront due to community opposition that argued that building a casino with hotel, restaurants and shops would create congestion for local residents. And similar opposition sprang up as soon as the downtown casino proposal was made.

However, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell both welcomed the casino proposal and said they would give it serious consideration. Nutter added that he wasn’t concerned about the casino project’s proximity to the historic district, as there was ample separation between the two areas and that the city would ensure no garish signs or lighting would mar the area.

The National Park Service, which manages the historic district’s attractions, has taken a neutral stance toward the proposal but added that a casino would actually help bring more tourists to the district.