Does City Hall endorse racial profiling by advocating for a Market Street casino - AGAIN?

No casino sign

In posts too many to name, I’ve shared concerns many of us in the Asian community have about the gambling industry’s penchant for racial profiling. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing when the industry just speaks for itself:

Philadelphia's large Asian and Slavic populations help make it the right place for a second casino, an attorney for a company that had pondered bidding to run a casino here told the House Gaming Oversight Committee Thursday.

“It is known that we have the two ethnicities that frequent the gambling,” said James J. DiVergilis, who represents Global Gaming, a company that operates no casinos, but considered seeking one of the two Philadelphia licenses awarded in 2006 and now wants to open one in the Meadowlands. “The two ethnicities that go to these are the Slavic community and the Asians,” he said. And “outside Brooklyn, North East Philadelphia is the highest Slavic community in the country.” . . . . .

. . . But freshman legislator and committee member John Lawrence, R-Delaware, was clearly flabbergasted by what he heard.

“Sir, with all due respect, your comments with regards to particular ethnic groups being more or less likely to participate in gambling was somewhat surprising and shocking to me. And disturbing, frankly,” Lawrence said. “I wonder where you come across this information, and how you justify it, frankly.”

DiVergilis told Lawrence that this was not his personal opinion, but what he has read in the gaming trade publications [sic]. “It's all in the literature,” he said.

I have to give it up to you Mr. DiVergilis, gambling industry rep, for your brutal honesty in laying out the cold reality of the predatory gambling industry. You’re hardly wrong to be baffled by anyone’s naivete about your industry’s success in free-range racial profiling. In an investor phone call, Steve Wynn cited the proximity of “a Vietnamese neighborhood” as one of the reasons he contemplated (for a nanosecond) taking over the failed Foxwoods project. Sugarhouse is advertising for an Asian Marketing Executive whose primary job is to “attract an Asian player base to the property.” Earlier this month, Sugarhouse filed a request with the Gaming Commission to create an “Asian themed room” with a noodle bar.

So if there’s little pretense about the fact that the gambling industry has its sights set on the Asian community, explain to me why the City not only continues to endorse that industry but enable it by advocating a casino return to Market Street:

Could the idea of a Market Street casino be back on the table?

Mayor Nutter and his staff are still very much opposed to a casino on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street in South Philly and are keen on a gaming hall on Market Street East in Center City near the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center. Alan Greenberger, Nutter's deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told the state House Gaming Oversight Committee this morning that the administration would like the see a second casino in Philadelphia used to "leverage" a larger project such as a hotel near the Convention Center.

Really? Let’s recap this:

  1. The state-sponsored gambling industry is open and carefree in its admission of racial profiling and targeting of a vulnerable Asian community
  2. In fact, a casino on Market Street would not just be next to the Convention Center, but to Chinatown, a neighborhood whose specific racial make-up the industry explicitly wants to exploit.
  3. A majority of Philadelphians believe our city doesn’t need a second casino, and even the gambling industry’s favorite son, former Gov. Ed Rendell, has openly questioned whether Philly needs a second casino.
  4. Market Street Round 1 was opposed by Chinatown; a coalition of more than 40+ neighborhood, civic, social, business and faith-based organizations who decried predatory gambling; a potential landlord; oh, and 57% of Philadelphians
  5. Sugarhouse’s lagging revenues, flair for making the crime headlines, and failure to inspire anything less than a cringe doesn’t really do much for Planning Commissioner Alan Greenberg’s claims about ancillary development promises.

Speaking of which, wasn’t the whole point of the $800 million Convention Center expansion that it was supposed to spawn ancillary development? Instead we’re stuck with a money pit of ballooning costs and poor management whose revenue generates barely a fraction of the investment taxpayers (and the state's gamblers) have put in:

Perhaps more notably, the report found that the Convention Center has bigger operating losses than comparable facilities that compete for business with Philadelphia. (Most convention centers are not moneymakers in and of themselves; they foster revenue by luring out-of-town, tax-generating conventioneers to hotels, restaurants, and shops.)

At the same time, the report pointed out that Philadelphia's operating losses are expected to balloon in fiscal 2012, the first full year for the expanded building, with total expenses estimated to climb to $35.6 million, from $24 million in fiscal 2010. Total revenue is projected to be $12 million; it was $8.4 million in 2010.

"There is no one best recommendation for designing or operating a facility as many unknown external factors impact operations over time and the dynamic nature of the industry requires flexibility," the report said.

Rrrrright. So putting one loser – a cheap slots house in an oversaturated market – next to another, somehow adds up to what again?

Should have known that you'd beat me to it.

I was just coming over to YPP to post on this. Great post, Helen.

The financial failure of the Convention Center expansion was easily predictable - there were many studies which said that similar convention center projects in other cities were uniformly over-hyped with respect to the economic benefits they would bring. Why does Nutter continue to support these types of boondoggles? I think the only reasonable conclusion is that he is selling out to vested interests.

Why is city planning so screwed up in Philly? What can't we get a decent development project for Market Street East, that will increase the walkability of the area and bring sustainable development that will benefit the local residents?

Do I sound pissed?

Not enough, sadly.

Not pissed enough, sadly.

Everyone needs to read Jane Jacobs

What really ticks me off about the Convention Center expansion is that it is killing development up Broad, which was JUST about to get there. It's a classic boundary, as described by Jane Jacobs. You've got a whole block that no Philadelphian has any reason to go to, which means nothing is going to happen up north of it either, unless Girard starts to boom all on its lonesome.

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All for the benefit of the hotel industry, which still whines

and moans about how much more the City needs to do for it. And, of course, tax reform that would benefit the vast majority of Philly businesses has to wait because it might cost the hotels a few nickels, if not dimes.

12th street dungeon

I regularly park on 12th Street and walk to the Reading Terminal Market (I know, I should be taking public transportation, but I buy a lot of stuff and use that as an excuse to drive).

I absolutely hate walking through that dungeon that goes from Race to Arch on 12th, and it is amazing how much foot traffic there is on Race and on Arch with so little traffic on 12th where it connects those two streets.

Absolutely horrible city planning. It's a disgrace for the heart of a world-class city to have such an unpleasant and desolate eyesore.

As one of our exemplary political models once said

"Money talks, b---s--t walks."

Councilman Goode, Green, Kenney

Where are you? Now is a good time for you to generate heat about the attempt to locate a casino at Market Street East.

Get out in front. Be a leader.

Leadership needed from Northeast Philly, too

Parx in Bensalem is by far the highest grossing casino in the state. Why is this? Could one of the reasons be the targeting of the Slavic community, which is a key "driver" for casinos, as Mr. DiVergilis emphasized in this testimony?

I'm no expert on where exactly the Slavic community is located in Northeast Philly, but it seems like it would include 10th councilmanic district (Councilman Brian J. O'Neill); and that the Lower Northeast is divided among five other council districts, including the 1st, represented by Frank DiCicco; 5th, Darrell Clarke; 6th, Joan L. Kajewski; 7th, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez; and 9th, Marian B. Tasco.

Also, Jack Kelly, an at-large member, is also from the Northeast. And I think Al Taubenberger, who might be running for Council, resides in the Northeast.

(Can anyone help refine this assessment. I took most of it from Wikipedia, god forbid!)

Are these elected officials concerned about Parx preying on a particular ethnic group in their jurisdiction? If so, what are they going to do about it?

Michael Nutter opposes casinos the way he supported libraries

Some old way. Some old bullshit.

Will someone besides Milton Street please run against the complete and total fraud who is running our city?

The last thing we need is another awful casino

PLAN: Sully our great downtown by putting an awful casino close to one of the worst parts of that downtown.

Man, who ISN'T for that?

I honestly can't believe that the Mayor supports such an awful plan, especially after Rendell of all people basically admits that the Philadelphia region is oversaturated with casinos.

What people don't seem to understand is that short-term "fixes" (if you can even call a casino that) are the last thing that we should be supporting. Don't get me wrong. I love Munich and I'm no prude, but I'd be lying if I didn't point out that the charm of a great old city like Munich is partly ruining by the pervasive gambling parlors and pornography shops that are there.

If anything, we need a real plan for Market East. How about something truly bold. Let's consolidate SEPTA and PATCO to help connect Philadelphia's fragmented underground transportation network. Then we could "say no" the cars by closing certain streets to traffic and them walkable. That could bolster the European feel that our city has been said to have.

It would be a culture shift and it would ruffle a lot of feathers, but come on now. Doing something significant and bold is what we need to do now. The winds of change are sweeping on North Broad with the Cherry St plan. Perhaps if that takes hold we will be able to expand upon it.

Councilman Goode,

I see you're online.

As my Council representative, what are you doing to advocate for my opposition to a casino from being built at Market Street East?

What are you doing to advocate for a more well-thought out process of city planning, one where a diverse group of stakeholders is empowered in the decision-making process?

Advocate for your individual position

First, you ask me to advocate for YOUR position.

Then, you ask me to advocate for a process with a diversity of stakeholders.

Will you admit that you asked for two contradicting processes?



Councilman Goode - kind of a duck, don't you think?

Advocating for my position (as your constituent) and advocating for a diversity of stakeholders to be part of the discussion on planning wouldn't necessarily be mutually exclusive at all.

And while I'd like you to do both, if a decision comes down where a diversity of stakeholders were empowered in making that decision - that would be enough for me.

If you canvassed your constituents and determined that most of them felt differently than I on the issue, and so advocated a for position other than mine, I might not like the outcome but at least I would be able to find the outcome acceptable.

What isn't acceptable to me is that massively important processes such as long-term planning for Market Street East, or locating a casino there, basically get railroaded through without equally representative input from affected stakeholders.

D.E. - ever heard of public hearings being required?

1. It's the state's decision whether Philly keeps the license.

2. I think a second casino should go in the stadia district, if anywhere.

3. I've never seen legislation on major development get "railroaded" without various sides being heard.(Maybe your side just didn't win but I'm sure that they testified at a public hearing)

I represent a diversity of stakeholders on all major issues - and I own every vote that I have cast.

Have a nice day. :)


Councilman Goode, FWIW, here's what I was referring to:

Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that emphasizes involving the entire community in the strategic and management processes of urban planning; or, community-level planning processes, urban or rural. It is often considered as part of community development


Robert Chambers, whom Fisher considered a leading icon of the movement, defines PRA according to the following principles;

Handing over the stick (or pen or chalk)

Facilitating investigation, analysis, presentation and learning by local people themselves, so they generate and own the outcomes and also learn.

Self-critical awareness

Facilitators continuously and critically examine their own behavior.

Personal responsibility

Taking responsibility for what is done, rather than, for instance, relying on the authority of manuals or on rigid rules.


Involves the wide range of techniques now available, from chatting across the fence to photocopies and e-mail.

I think that compared to that kind of process, what we have in Philly could fairly be referred to as railroading. What else could explain spending so much money on the Convention Center project? How did people in North or West Philly or Northeast Philly, or Northwest Philly, benefit from that project? How have a diverse group of stakeholders benefited from that project? How did that project involve learning by people all over the city so that they'd be in a position to be actively involved in generating planning outcomes?

$786 million dollars? The largest public works project in state history?

Do you seriously believe that if the residents of Philly were educated about the costs and benefits of different development projects, and empowered in planning decision making processes, the end result would have been blocks and blocks of unwalkable landscape, with no mixed-use, no diversity, no residential units, effectively creating a no-mans land between an incredibly vibrant part of the city (Chinatown) and Market Street?

As of 2009

Actual hotel room bookings turned out to be less than 1/2 of those projected for the first CC expansion (not an atypical error, it seems - the same overstatements were made to justify CC expansions in other cities as well). The amount of hotel business generated by the previous CC expansion was only about 11% of the total hotel business of the City.

From 2005:

An examination of the convention business and city and state spending on host venues finds that:

The overall convention marketplace is declining in a manner that suggests that a recovery or turnaround is unlikely to yield much increased business for any given community, contrary to repeated industry projections. Moreover this decline began prior to the disruptions of 9-11 and is exacerbated by advances in communications technology. Currently, overall attendance at the 200 largest tradeshow events languishes at 1993 levels.

Adding a casino at Market Street East to the mistake of the Convention Center expansion will only exacerbate the problems. Who will provide leadership on this issue if you don't, Councilman Goode?

D. E.- Start with your State Representative and State Senator!

The Convention Center Expansion was not a mistake ... and it was also funded through State money ($700m) and an increase in the hotel tax for consumers($86m).

It's the State that will also decide if Philly keeps the 2nd license and if the Market Street East location will be approved.

D. E.- Start with your State Representative and State Senator! Or on the local level, start with whoever is actually advocating for the Market Street East location.

There is also a very public planning process happening for the entire City right now.


Convention Center: Exhibit A

Passing judgment on the Convention Center may not be a matter of whether something is a “mistake” or not, but it certainly requires a set of criteria by which we judge public investments and resources. There’s no doubt that the Convention Center gave jobs, and that the minority participation in those jobs was laudable (30% I think the Mayor said).

But I hope Councilman that you might also see the fuller picture of the Convention Center, partially laid out by Paul Davies' column in yesterday’s paper. In addition:

  • It expanded the duties and responsibilities of a “management team” built on political alliances rather than professional expertise and Philly-based business acumen.
  • It reinforced and built entitlement for troubling labor practices.
  • It’s killed a four block strip of Race Street from Broad to Chinatown that once had business and housing.
  • It’s sucked up hundreds of millions in state dollars that as we'll see in tomorrow's state budget will have come from other important places, and will operate at a significant deficit throughout its existence.
  • The Center's funding relied primarily on gambling revenue, creating and reinforcing a problematic cycle of state-sponsored development projects.

Putting people to work is not a valueless venture. It does matter where public dollars get spent and how. If $800 million were going into a Philadelphia project and it wasn’t going to make any money and run us at least what $20+ million in deficit every year? I’d like to see a park system at play along the lines of the great public works projects during the Great Depression. At least that effort had vision. At least that effort brought a sense of community and natural preservation, became a defining vision in a time of struggle.

So perhaps it’s true that we step back and not call things mistakes, but it must also be true that when we as residents and community members are told to sacrifice and rein in our expectations, that this city prove it’s not exploiting its people simply to reinforce the same regressive power and political dynamics that have held Philadelphia back for years. So whether or not you want to call it a mistake, Convention Center expansion and City Hall's support for a Market Street casino is Exhibit A for me on that front.

I agree with all of this, except for the union piece

which was a minor part of your comment, Helen. But still, not knowing the details of the state of labor relations at the Center, I hesitate to rely on Paul Davies at the Inky as the last word on them. Or indeed, anyone at any of the mainstream papers who generally carry labor news only when it gives them a chance to dump on unions. The Davies article also suggests, btw, in an off-handed way without any evidence whatsoever, that privatization of management would be a major step forward. Privatization, in truth, often involves higher costs, less reliable and responsive management, and inferior work-product . . . in addition to exploitation of workers. So, without suggesting that there isn't room for tremendous improvement in current management of the Center, I would hesitate to just turn it over to a private company, through a contract that politicians who need to raise campaign cash would negotiate. The best option to me, is to apply public pressure to get our public officials to appoint people to these jobs who know what they're doing. And to keep things in the public domain where we can keep watching, and keep changing as circumstances dictate.

And as to the unions, couldn't Davies have at least pretended that he was interested in their point of view? It is telling that the only reference he makes to what one union official, John Dougherty, thinks, is an allegation that Dougherty supports privatization. I thought the unions at the Center were good for nothing, Paul. Why should we listen to what they have to say about privatization?

The Davies article

is misleading in how it tries to lay the blame for past and future failure to meet revenue goals at the feet of Philadelphia unions.

Philly is not the only city where convention centers have and will fail to match up to how they were sold to the public.

Just think of how many jobs Councilman Goode could have created with $800 million dollars to spend along the Chelten Avenue corridor!

Why, I bet he could have created projects that would actually make money, let alone run at a $20 million deficit every year.

I think you are both misreading Davies' article

I wrote him to compliment him this morning.

It is not directed at unions. It is directed at the people who run the convention center and who have obviously structured the relationship between the center and the unions in a way that creates perverse incentives.

What do the building trades care most about? Keeping their members working. Given that interest, they have every reason to want the convention center to be full all the time. It is thus hard to fathom why good management at the convention center cannnot figure out how to create incentives to the unions to a) overcome factional disputes; b) create good will among the people who use the center; and c) keep rates for such things as setting up laptop computers sensible.

Are unions sometimes greedy? Of course. They are human. But good unions think about the long term. That's why, to take another example, DC 47 has always encouraged reinventing government initiatives.

Most of the time when unions are perceived as the problem, the real problem is bad management. That's what Paul Davies' piece says. And if you read between the lines, that what Johnny Doc, who is quoted in the piece and is a pretty notable defender of unions, says as well.

I'm not sure why Davies

needs us to read between the lines. If he thinks there are other incentives that could be given to the unions that would keep them whole while increasing the center's attractiveness, he ought to say so. And if he thinks that's what Johnny Doc thinks, he ought to quote him, or at least paraphrase him, saying so. Otherwise we're left to tea leaf reading, and, that to me is not great journalism.

City Hall

There are at least 2 branches of government in City Hall. :)


Councilman Goode

A couple of weeks ago, the State Legislature held a hearing in Philadelphia on whether the revoked Foxwoods license should be re-bid statewide or whether it should stay in Philadelphia. Anyone was free to testify. For instance, the Nutter Administration had a Deputy Mayor appear and testify. Why didn't you testify and provide your views? (The hearing was held in Room 400 of City Hall.) It is not too late for you to submit a letter to the State Gaming Oversight Committee. I hope you do so. And I hope every member of City Council does so.

For you to say you have no role in this is both too convenient and incorrect. Given that the State has opened the debate on whether the license should be bid statewide, local politicians who used to be able to duck this ssue, are now -- if they remain silent -- outed as being pro-casino. I'm not singling you out. There are many local (and state) politicians in the boat with you.

I do appreciate that you posted your views online. I hope your colleagues do the same.

I was in a Law & Government Hearing in the Caucus Room

I was in a Law & Government Hearing in the Caucus Room across the hall on the updating of the Fair Practices Ordinance and the creation of a Jobs Commission. Which was more important?! Focusing on local legislative work!

AND I didn't say that I had no role in the issue, I simply said that it's the State's decision.

I don't mind stating my opinion on-line - but no good deed goes unpunished! :)


Should local politicians also be silent

In the state's decision about school funding? about vouchers? about DRPA?

This passivity cuts both ways.

Councilman, what's your position?

For purposes of discussion, let's assume we agree on the three main points in your latest posting: (1) you have a role; (2) it's the state's decision; and (3) you don't mind stating your opinion online.

So here's the question: are you in favor of (or are you opposed to) a second casino in Philadelphia?

Thank you. And, I won't punish you for posting your opinion online! I appreciate the discourse.

2nd Casino

I do not oppose a 2nd casino if it's in the stadia district. But since we can't control where it goes, I am not in favor of a 2nd casino.


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