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

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No Casino Sign from Young Philly Politics

This is from Helen Gym's blog by permission of the author

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?