Nutter Revokes Sugarhouse's Building License

Sugarhouse, the proposed riverfront casino on the Fishtown/Northern Liberties border, needs to build on some submerged land owned by the state. The Street administration issued them a license to build on that land, which provoked lawsuits from state lawmakers and Philadelphia City Council, who claimed that the city had no right to issue that license.

Well, Michael Nutter just either made that lawsuit moot or upped the ante by revoking the license awarded by the city.

From the Inquirer:

At a City Hall news conference, he used harsh language to criticize the city action that preceded him, saying the license was "issued in error" by the city Commerce Department and was "unnecessarily rushed."

SugarHouse will have 30 days to appeal to the city to issue the license again, but only after a more extensive review process, Nutter said. He did not say how long that process would take - "it will be reasonable' - if SugarHouse chose to appeal...

The mayor reiterated that he is not a fan of the site for the SugarHouse or the Foxwoods casinos. In the case of SugarHouse, he said, concerns about traffic, parking, congestion and more were "brushed to the side" by the Street administration in a process that he characterized as improper. "It was an abuse of a discretion," Nutter said.

One of the reasons many of us supported Michael Nutter

One of the reasons many of us supported Michael Nutter was his commitment to a fair, transparent process.

He is demonstrating his commitment to the principle that citizens should have input into public policy decisions which impact the quality of their lives.

Credit where it is due.

I was fortunate to be a part of this fight, and I have to say that Mayor Nutter deserves a heck of a lot of credit for this.

But, so do a bunch of other people, including certain PNA delegates who ran with this issue, the law firm of Welsh and Recker and the following elected officials (and please, I'm just giving the facts here), including Councilman DiCicco, Senator Fumo and Rep. O'Brien who really took the ball and ran with this. Also, the remaining Philadelphia legislators, including Rep. Keller who signed onto the appeal. But for that process, I doubt Mayor Nutter would have had the cover to revoke this permit.

Tim, I was going to post on this, but you beat me to it.

Karen, you are very right.

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese


As I said off the blog, we need you to fill in the details for us. What does this all mean?

Well, there is a full post

Well, there is a full post on the way sometime soon. But, it means a lot, actually.

The real issue is, Sugarhouse doesn't own the land it wants to build on. In fact, it only has an option for less than 1/2 of that land. 52% of it is submerged, or riparian land, which, based on some pretty good legal authority only lies with the General Assembly to grant.

The General Assembly will likely not move a riparian rights bill until Sugarhouse actually addresses some of the concerns related to their site, including traffic and community benefits. This they have failed to do.

So, it is a step towards one of two things (1) addressing issues related to this site and the placement of a casino there; or (2) re-siting, which is really the optimal goal here.

Either or is better than what the Street Administration left us with.

The caveat is, Sugarhouse may still be able to build a smaller facility on the 48% it can control and wait for time to go by to look for riparian rights. But, time is money. I essence, it is time for them to start talking about re-siting.

AJ is a Fishtowner, so perhaps he can throw his thoughts in here.

Perhaps some of the State Legislators who participate on this forum would commit themselves to re-siting and help their colleagues on the Riverfront???

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese

Sugarhouse sure would make a

Sugarhouse sure would make a great anchor tenant for Philly Live.

Double bad voodoo!

I'm glad this happened. That Sugarhouse site has double bad voodoo for building a damn casino!

First off, it's the place where the British loyalists and troops actually camped out during the war of Independence, trying to knock off George Washington, take out the Founding Fathers, and stop the American revolution from happening!

And if that's not enough, it's one of the last known habitats of not just any old endangered animal, but a TURTLE (ironically called the "red-bellied turtle" - as opposed to red-coated) - the most important, sacred animal in Lenape Indian culture. The Lenape Indians held that the whole world sits on the back of a turtle, so the Turtle Clan of Lenape Indians (which inhabited Philly and Bucks Counties) was the most powerful of all the Lenapes - the capital of the entire Lenape nation being their capital Shackamaxon...what? Three four blocks away from the Sugarhouse site, in Kensington.

And let's not forget... Penn Treaty Park, right next door to the Sugarhouse site! Plopping down a big fat slots warehouse in the place in all of North America where the white man first hung out with Native Americans pretty much would cement once and for all that yes, this is the way our two cultures are going to have contact anywhere in the United States. Might as well make it official, name it the "Unami Slots House" and allow smoke signals or something. Especially if building this casino wipes out those damn turtles.

However - I love that the bizarre formless ocean of zoning law has given birth to the concept of "riparian rights." As it is read, it means the rights of a landowner to build on a parcel that borders the river; you could also read it as hinting that the river should have some legal rights of its own. Anyways.

Together, yes - we can refine the future, by resiting the thing.
As for the past - a shrine that does not blink, take your money, or stop ambulances from reaching most of the neighborhoods along Delaware Avenue will do nicely.

The Undone Deal

The tide has clearly turned and we are now on a path if not to eliminating casinos from the city than to re-siting them.

Last January I proposed moving the casinos to a site near the airport. This would keep casinos far from any residential neighborhood and make it more difficult for Philadelphians to casually gamble. And, because it would maximize the number of gamblers from outside the city, this was the only site that would bring any real economic benefits to the city.

I was told by members of City Council and the General Assembly that this could not be done because it would require opening up Act 71 to change the process of selecting casinos and eliminate the ten mile barrier between free-standing casinos and casinos at racetracks.

A noted labor leader from the building trades told me that only Senator Fumo, with the support of Mayor Street, could open Act 71 and that neither of them would support the idea.

And an editorial board writer at a daily paper scoffed at my suggestion and seemed more concerned about this diea dividing the anti-casino movement than with the necessity of coming up with a political strategy for winning the fight against casinos on the waterfront.

I said that anti-casino opponents would fight and fight and delay and delay until the holders of the casino licenses themselves begged for opening up Act 71 and re-siting them. And then, I said, we would win and even my friends in Casino Free Philadelphia would celebrate the victory.

A week or so ago Inga Saffron endorsed the idea of moving the casinos to the airport. The Inquirer editorial board made the same suggestion the other day. Mayor Nutter has just called into question both the process by which the sites were selected and, implicitly, the whole idea of putting casinos on the riverfront.

And Senator Fumo has been talking about re-siting as well.

The done deal is undone.

(Could someone with access to lexis find out how many times the phrase “done deal” was used in articles about the casinos by news writers and editorialists at our daily papers in the last two years?)

I would prefer no casinos at all but I’m not sure we can bring that about. I do hope everyone—that means my friend Tom Ferrick, too—remembers that the city gets money for the convention center and reducing our wage tax whether we have two casinos in Philadelphia or not. But with all the political weight behind the casino juggernaut, stopping it entirely is still an extremely difficult proposition.

It is, however, it is just a matter of time until the license holders read the writing on the wall and start lobbying on the side of re-siting. And then this city and its residents really will win.

And, in my view, the airport remains the best site. Tonight I was talking to a friend who knows our transit system far better than I do. He pointed out two or three options for using public transit to bring suburbanites to a site near the airport. That would eliminate traffic problems and help insure that those who use the casinos come from diverse places, most of which are outside the city, thereby minimizing the damage that casino gambling brings to any one community. I’ll get the details from him and post them in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I’m drinking to the anti-casino movement tonight.

Note: when writing about casinos (and everything else other than health care) on this blog, I am speaking for myself not my employer.

A sampler

Patrick Walters, AP, 10/7/07, "Deck Stacked Against Casino Foes":

Though the planned slots-only parlors are essentially a done deal, the couple has joined a group hoping that, by being enough of a nuisance, it can slow down and then stop Philadelphia from passing Detroit to become the nation's largest city with casino gambling.

Jeff Shields, Inquirer, 10/3/07, "Casino firms must pay fees despite delays":

Casino Free Philadelphia organizer Daniel Hunter said casino opponents were "pretty jazzed" yesterday.

"The internal so-called done deals that were made in order to bring casinos to Pennsylvania are beginning to break down," said Hunter, who has criticized the board for what he called a lack of meaningful public input."

Bonnie Graham, Letter to the DN, 9/7/2007:

The neighbors of SugarHouse and Foxwoods will continue to protest, even though we are told on a daily basis not to bother - it's a done deal.

Paul Boni, DN, 3/9/07, "City can control where casinos are built":

But many in city government's leadership are trying to pass the buck to Harrisburg by saying that the locations of the two casinos are a "done deal." At the same time they condemn the state's identification of the two locations along our riverfront, which would bring big boxes, each containing 5,000 slot machines, within walking distance of hundreds of thousands of rowhouse residents.

Mark McDonald, Inquirer, 12/21/06, "Done deal on the Delaware? Don't bet on it!" (Headline.)

Chris Satullo, Inquirer, "That train done gone and left the station":

Why? This civic energy is just so late and so often off point.

Philly will get two casinos, at least one on its Delaware riverfront. That's been a done deal since back when Terrell Owens was still a local hero.

Stier's trolley vision pulls into the station far too late in the day. Sugrue's Detroit analysis doesn't travel; the case for casinos here was always aimed at Harrisburg's needs, not Philly's. With the fix in, few even bothered to offer fluffy economic spinoff predictions. And too many sound policy goals already depend on the state's new slots addiction; you can't end it without jeopardizing them.

Inquirer, 6/2/06: "Today, we're just hoping to raise awareness," said Sarah Thorp, 34, of Fishtown. "We do not believe it's a done deal."

For the most part, "done deal" has been in quotes. But point taken.

tcarmody: The McDonald story was in the DN

not the Inquirer


I'd like to challenge the notion that this victory is born out of the "anti-casino" movement entirely. Many, many of the individuals who worked so hard to have this license have a second look and involved in the legal challenges are not "anti-casino", but have legitimate fears about their communities and developers being given carte blanche to have their projects completed.

As I've said many times before, I am not anti-casino. But, I am for moving these casinos to more appropriate locations and/or areas where people want them.

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese

That's right, Gaetano

I was using "anti-casino movement" not to speak of those who oppose any casinos but those who have been fighting the casinos at all the sites that have been under consideration so far.

Some of the people who are in this broad movement oppose casinos entirely. Some like me, would prefer not to have casinos at all, but would accept them in certain sites if that is the political price of avoiding them in sites that impinge on residential neighborhoods and / or would undermine rather than aid the city's economy and budget. Others want to bring casinos to Philly but, again, only in certain sites.

So far we have all been working together to attain the first goal we all share which is keeping casinos from the riverfront.

BTW my "Trolley Vision"

was front and center at a DRPA / PATCO presentation in South Philly today, as it was in the Penn Praxis plan. I won't quite say it is a done deal, but I think a new transit line on the riverfront will happen. (You can help make it happen by commenting positively on the propsal at

To give credit where credit is due, DRPA was working on such a plan about nine months before I started talking about it. I heard some vague rumors of the idea of putting a new transit line on the river, and saw why it was a good idea on its own and, if necessary as a way of moving parking at the casinos off the riverfront. The details of the plan I put forward at the meeting Chris Satullo mentioned and on my blog were worked out mostly by my friend Scott Maits.

airport or Navy Yard

With the Philly Live! proposal, situating a (or both) casino at the south end of the city becomes more feasable. A Delaware Ave trolley that wraps around to Broad and Pattison (or over to 20th st for full access to FDR Park) makes sense--and ideas like extending the Broad St Line subway into the Navy Yard (or even across to the airport!) gain traction.

There is much that can be done symbiotically in that area, that would leverage the investment.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content