South Philly Casino Project Given the Go-Ahead

by Jim Hall

Pennsylvania Gaming Control BoardThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control board has approved a proposal for a second casino in Philadelphia.

A second casino for the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania has been in the works for some time but legal issues have resulted in the project being halted. Stadium Casino LLC has proposed a casino and hotel for South Philadelphia of which the state Gaming Control Board recently approved. The board voted unanimously 7 to 0 that Watche Manoukian, also known as Bob, does not and will not have an interest financially in Stadium that is over 33.3%. The board also ruled that Stadium has complied with the State Gaming Act.

The Board’s Approval

The issue with the new proposal was that Bob had too much stake in the Stadium brand and would be invested more than he should be within two gaming venues based on state law. The board was in agreement that Stadium provided enough testimony as well as evidence to achieve the approval. On July 31st, Bob stated that he will transfer $34 million for his children into a trust that will include a portion of ownership of the new gaming venue, the one being proposed. The trust will be funded by gifts and he has no monetary investment to the trust.

With the funding being created by gifts, the board found that Bob Manoukian doesn’t have a financial interest in Stadium Casino LLC via Sterling Investors Trust or Sterling Fiduciary Services Inc.

A Look Back

Two months ago, the case involving Manoukian was sent back to the gaming board for review by the State Supreme Court, requiring an evidentiary hearing. Information provided during this review helped the board decide that the invested interest of Manoukian is not in violation of the restrictions involving casino ownership for the proposed venue titled Live! Philadelphia Casino & Hotel. Manoukian currently owns just over 85% interest in the Parx Casino located in Bensalem.

The law of Pennsylvania in regards to gaming says that any individual who has ownership of one casino cannot own over 33.3% in another venue. Manoukian has stake in Parx and would also have part ownership of this new venue. Manoukian has a $850 million net worth based on documents provided by the board. Greenwood Racing is a company owned by Manoukian which was formed by a 50/50 partnership with entities that are located within the Cordish family based in Baltimore.

With the Supreme Court decision from June, this made two times that the license provided to Stadium Casino was reviewed by the gaming board. Richard Sprague, a lawyer of Philadelphia, for SugarHouse Casino stated that its very easy to say that a gift has been given to the children, as Manoukian has stated he is doing. Sprague stated, what’s the source of the money and Stadium asked, but did not receive an answer as to what the source of the $34 million gift is.

Sprague stated that the answer was that the money comes from multiple sources and someone should take the deposition of the sons. SugarHouse Casino has been one that has been in disagreement with the development of the new casino since its inception.

Gaming Board Chief Enforcement Counsel Cyrus Pitre commented on the decision, stating that he is in support of the decision by the board. Pitre stated that background checks were completed on Manoukian and that the same process was completed as it done with other casino license approvals. All money is traced as to where it comes from to ensure the funds are from legitimate sources. Pitre stated that the position of SugarHouse is bordering on complete arrogance.

With the ruling from Wednesday, the gaming control board will be writing an adjudication which is a statement outlining while they made their decision. Once the document is received by the parties involved, it could be appealed back. If no appeal is made, the board can then move forward to make the licensing final.