HSP Gaming will now get to argue for the right to build its casino on state-owned riparian lands in the same city where those lands lie beneath the Delaware River.
The arguments, originally scheduled for the state Supreme Court’s May session in Harrisburg, were moved up to the court’s April 15 session in Philadelphia at HSP Gaming’s request.
The court granted two petitions for review filed by a group of state lawmakers and Philadelphia City Council seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s December decision to grant HSP Gaming a license to build on the riparian lands.
HSP Gaming, the parent company of planned SugarHouse Casino, then asked for the arguments to be moved up from May when the company owes approximately $70 million to close on the purchase of the property adjacent to the riparian lands.
HSP had asked for either its preference of the court scheduling a special argument session before the April session in Philadelphia or, if not that, to have the arguments during the court’s scheduled time in April.
In their petition in Fumo v. City of Philadelphia, a group of lawmakers including Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, said the Nov. 27 decision by the Philadelphia Commerce Department was not a decision the department could make legally and stepped upon the solitary decision-making role of the General Assembly to authorize HSP Gaming to construct up to a 5,000-slot machine facility on the 12 acres of submerged public lands in question.
In the same week, City Council filed a petition for review, City Council of Philadelphia v. City of Philadelphia, on the same issue. Both cases have been moved up to the April 15 arguments.
When he took office, Mayor Michael Nutter soon had the new commerce director revoke the license because, he alleged, it was done improperly. HSP Gaming is challenging that revocation in a different suit.
The City of Philadelphia, which now opposes the granting of a license by the former administration because it did not first get state approval, did not oppose HSP Gaming’s request to move up the argument date. The group of lawmakers in Fumo did.
The lawmakers’ outside counsel, Catherine Recker of Welsh & Recker, said, “we’re ready to go.”
According to Fumo spokesman Gary Tuma, counsel to the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Christopher B. Craig, said “the legislators are ready and eager to present their case any place, any time.”
SugarHouse’s attorney, Stephen A. Cozen of Cozen O’Connor said they were pleased the court saw fit to move up the argument.
“I think they were convinced this was a matter of some exigency and that their action clearly is consistent with the intention of Section 1506 of the Gaming Act to dispose of gaming related appeals” quickly, he said.
--Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter