Bigler Street, between 13th and 10th Streets, can be considered the last residential block before reaching the entertainment and stadium complex in South Philadelphia.
Although separated by the Schuylkill Expressway, this complex is visible to Bigler Street residents. And while residents have become accustomed to the sounds and sights of Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, they are unsure of what they may see if a casino is added to the area’s southern skyline.
“I’ve heard about the things that come with casinos-crime, prostitution, drugs,” Rita Cairey said, standing outside her home on the 2800 block of South 12th Street.
“This area is such a family area. There’s a school around the corner, a baseball field, my kids are riding their bikes right now. I just don’t see how this area would be a good choice.”
In a competition for the last casino license in Pennsylvania, six entities have filed applications and presented plans for casino-entertainment complexes in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The three sites proposed for South Philadelphia are: PA Gaming Ventures’ Hollywood Casino at 700 Packer Ave; Stadium Casino’s Live! Hotel and Casino at 900 Packer Ave and PHL Local Gaming’s Casino Revolution at Front and Pattison Streets. Each of these proposed facilities are less than two miles away from Rita Cairey’s Bigler home on Bigler Street.
Simon Wolf, a resident of the 2800 block of Bigler Street, said, “They didn’t consider the impact. They didn’t consider Phillies or Eagles’ games and the traffic that comes with those; the transient groups of people, who will be coming through our neighborhood and making it their own, they didn’t think about any of that.”
Wolf spoke at the first round of community impact meetings concerning the six proposed casinos sites in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board heard testimony from community residents, public officials and other interested persons on each of the six sites.
Concerning the South Philadelphia sites, traffic, community benefits and future job-employment options specifically for South Philadelphia residents were repeatedly voiced by residents during that Gaming Board hearing.
The testimony from Senator Larry Farnese of the 1st Senatorial District summarized those resident concerns. Focusing on three main points, his testimony considered the overall economic impact, the community impact on the host neighborhoods and the suitability of the applicants.
“At this stage of the process it would be difficult, if not unfair, to choose a particular favorite,” Senator Farnese said at the meeting. “I can, however, offer my suggestions about the questions you should focus on, and the meaning of the many selection factors in the Gaming Act.”
Unlike Farnese, Kiki Bolender, chair of the Design Advocacy Group, presented a report, created by that organization, on each of the sites. Bolender was able to identify the South Philadelphia sites as unlikely candidates for the last license.
“Well its always what is going to happen next. Do you think the casino can just function just fine in the warehouse area? Is the plan then for that area not to be a casino district then,” Bolender said about the proposed Casino Revolution at Front and Pattison streets.
As for the Packer Avenue proposed casinos, Bolender worries that the location will be competing against the stadium-entertainment complex on 11th and Pattison Streets, a block away.
For Simon Wolf, the stadium complex and the proposed sites present a bigger problem.
“We already have the stadiums and the traffic they produce on their own during sporting or special events is ridiculous,” Wolf said after his testimony. “I can only imagine that increase if a 24-hour casino and hotel opens in our backyard.”
The Gaming Board will consider all testimonies heard from the community impact meetings as well as written testimonies sent in to the board when making their final decision on where to place the casino. Because the turnout to the community impact meetings were well received, the board has decided to hold additional meetings in May.