Philly Park Pulls Petition for Change in Slots Plan

Two months after it petitioned the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to reclassify its grandstand as a permanent slots casino--a move that fueled speculation it was trying to renege on plans to build a $300-million, stand-alone casino on track property--Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack has asked that the petition be ignored.

That means the grandstand, which houses slot machines on its first two floors, will remain a temporary structure for the one-armed bandits. Greenwood Racing, which owns Philly Park, has also asked state regulators to give it more time to complete construction of a new facility. The stand-alone casino originally was scheduled to be completed in 2008.

On June 14, Greenwood issued a statement from chief executive officer Bob Green, who said there were "certain misconceptions and, in some cases, misrepresentation about the classification issue and our future intentions."

Green also said: "We are requesting a few extra months to further redefine the first phases of our proposed master plan for the whole of the Philadelphia Park property."

Greenwood's attempt to reclassify the Bensalem Township grandstand as a permanent slots parlor and delay or abandon plans for the stand-alone casino and elevated parking garages was met with outrage by some elected officials, the public, and horsemen.

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association had filed a letter of protest with the gaming control board seeking to force Greenwood to follow through on its initial expansion plans, which were the basis for the conditional Category 1 slots license it received from the state last year.

The Pennsylvania THA said the current set-up for slots in the grandstand has led to a sharp decline in on-track pari-mutuel handle. Patrons currently can wager on live and simulcast races on the fifth floor, a small area on the first floor near the paddock, and at the outdoor picnic area.

The gaming control board in early June granted a petition by the horsemen's group to intervene in the Philly Park slots plan and present evidence at a hearing. Regulators hadn't formally heard Greenwood's "change in status plan" before the company pulled the request June 14.