Bill Toland casino chat transcript

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Can the fans appeal the decision or is it just restricted to the people who bid on the casinos?

Bill Toland: Welcome, all. Madpenfan, only the applicants can technically appall the decision to Commonwealth Court. But any U.S. citizen and Pennsylvania resident has the right to file a lawsuit and claim some violation of rights. The Rooneys, for example, aren't an applicant, but they may file a law suit in the next few weeks, trying to prevent the North Shore casino.

Pickman: In addition to the possible mass transit construction to the north side, are there any other works that would be necessary, such as adding parking spaces or widening of roads to ease congestion on the north side? It would seem to me with commuters and sports fans, additional parking, roads or road lanes would be necessary with the addition of the casino.

Bill Toland: The casino itself will add a parking garage. As for road improvements, you will see some of those, too, but I don't think it will be anything major. New signals, new turning lanes, that sort of thing. (f course, the tunnel under the river will now have some use)

CarbolicSmokeBall: First, why would the NHL stipulate that Mr. Balsillie couldn't move the Pens regardless of the arena situation prior to the Gaming Commission's vote, as this would seem to diminish the necessity for a new arena, and then yesterday after Isle of Capri lost, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the Pens will have to look at relocation options. Can anybody tell what's going on here?

Bill Toland: Bettman is attempting a balancing act here. Publicly, he wants to support the Pens and help them get the best deal possible. Behind the scenes, he doesn't want to lose the Pittsburgh market. The Pens have good attendance, despite the size of the market, the quality of the team recently, and the age of the arena. KC might seem enticing, but it's an untested market, and who knows if KC will respond to hockey? South Florida, Atlanta and Phoenix fans haven't exactly turned out in droves once the NHL gave them teams.

pensfanindc: Bill how serious do we take the statement from Lemieux today about shopping the team around? Is it an idle threat to get local law makers moving or the final straw with a frustrated owner?

Bill Toland: DC, I think it's semi-serious. Personally, I think he just wants to get the best possible deal for the Pens, and I think the Pens will stay in Pittsburgh. But, as other teams in other cities have shown, sometimes the best way to get a deal done is to threaten to leave. My guess is, Dan Onorato -- running for governor in 2010? -- and Mayor Luke -- running in 2007 -- won't let the Pens leave on their watch.

jomojmp: Can PITG be required to increase their contribution to a new arena since no final contract has actually been drawn up?

Bill Toland: Required is a strong word. But that point can certainly be negotiated. Expect the city, county and state to suggest to Barden that his $7.5 million annual contribution be bumped up a little bit.

slotsforpols: Any chance the Appeal process could work for IOC? Or is that just a crock too?

Bill Toland: There's always a chance. But I doubt it. IoC would have to show the court that there was some gross incompetence on the part of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, or prove that some party's constitutional rights were violated. Good luck with that, though.

kri316: i would like to know if anyone has thought of the fact that the reason PITG got the licensee is a prime example of reverse discrimination. it was given to a minority, it was given to please the minorities in the hill and not based on what was truly good for pittsburgh

Bill Toland: Doubt it. Yes, his race played a role, and the PGCB wants to create business opportunities and jobs for minorities -- but I don't think Forest City or IoC were discriminated against because they are white. Besides, Forest City had Franco Harris, Glen Mahone and Yvonne Cooke lined up as investors -- all black. IoC also had plans for a "minority business center," as they called it.

bradjl2009: Sry about that. Do you think that there might be a boycott or protest of some kind because of a lot of people are unhappy with the decision?

Bill Toland: That's up to the upset fans to organize something. In Philly, for example, city residents upset with the decision to give the casino to SugarHouse gaming have already staged one protest, yesterday at 6 p.m. They were pretty quick about it. Maybe you should organize one --

1234: Just curious how many of the irate Penguins fans would want a casino (with the loads of traffic that comes with it, in addition to other problems) built in their neighborhood. As there is little residential area immediately in the area of the selected casino, not to mention that it will generate the most money, seems like the state gaming board made the right decision to me.

Bill Toland: Lots of people feel the way you do. And you're right, few season-ticket holders from Sewickley, Squirrel Hill, Mt. Lebo or Fox Chapel would want a casino in their back yard, as many a reader has pointed out to me.

madpensfan: If Barden promised $350,000,000 to develop the lower Hill. Why not take $4,000,000 a year from this and waive the money the Pens would have to contribute to the building. Then build in the lower Hill and tiee all development together?

Bill Toland: All of these numbers are fluid. As I mentioned before, Barden may be convinced, before it's all over, to kick in mire money to the arena.

Bryan: How can we voice our displeasure to Onorato and Luke? What is their e-mail address?

Bill Toland: Go to the county and city Web sites; you'll find e-mail addresses there. Or you can try the old fashioned pen and paper approach.

Northside_Chronicle: It seems like Rendell has a sense of how important this is to the careers of his people (Ravenstahl, Onorato, etc.) in Pittsburgh. How far do you think he's willing to go with State money to make an arena deal happen?

Bill Toland: I think he's willing to do a lot, especially to help out Dan, who a lot of people think / hope will run for Rendell's office in 2010.

slotsforpols: Is the Barb Hafer on the Gaming Commission.....the same Barbara Hafer former Auditor General of Pa. and a Pittsburgher??

Bill Toland: No, she is not.

Pensfan: Does a decision need to be made before the lease on the arena expires? Or can a deal be made to rent the facility on a month to month basis?

Bill Toland: A sports guy might answer this better than I could, but I imagine if they were close to a deal, there's no reason they couldn't extend the terms of the current lease for three or four years, until a new arena is complete.

bradjl2009: So theres no change of IoC of coming to Pittsburgh?

Bill Toland: Never say never. Who knows, maybe five or 10 years from now, the state Legislature decides to expand the number of casinos and give another one to Pittsburgh. (A better bet might be that IoC ends up in Beaver or Lawrence County, if one of those counties ever gets a harness racing track. Early on, IoC was looking to partner with a harness track, not the Pens) jon: if the IOC decides not to appeal, can they release the penguins of everything binding them to the agreement and allow the penguins to begin negotiating with pittsburgh. As in today?

Bill Toland: Yes. And I imagine that negotiation has been going on for some time, through back channels. FYI, Mario said in a statement today that after the holidays, he will begin discussions with Pittsburgh leaders.

Bryan: From what Luke was saying on Tim Benz show yesterday, race played a part in Barden winning. Wouldn't that help IOC in the appeal process?

Bill Toland: Doubt it.

sad_pens_fan: Can you provide a lineup of which local political leaders favored which Casino plan?

Bill Toland: From what we've gathered, lots of state legislators supported the IoC plan, as did Bill Peduto and Luke Ravenstahl (initially, but then he backed off a bit when he became mayor). It's thought that Bob O'Connor and Dan Onorato were friendly with Forest City, and that Bill DeWeese, Jake Wheatley and Sala Udin were friendly with Don Barden.

MajesticBar: Don't you think the Pens will just say, "match free or we leave?"

Bill Toland: Funny screen name. I think they will aim for the best deal possible, but I don't think it has to be free. If they can get a deal where they have to pay, say, only $2 - $3 million a year, for the newest arena in sports, that's a deal they take, rather than take a chance in an untested market like KC. $3 million isn't peanuts, but on the other hand, it's less than they're paying Sergi Gonchar. Then again, it's hard to know what the new owners might think, because Mario claims that team is now off the market.

slotsforpols: How can it be that Philadelphia has had 2 new arena's (the Spectrum & Wachovia Center) since the Civic Arena was built and Pittsburgh got zilch?

Bill Toland: Well, in the 1990s under previous ownership, the Pens accepted millions in upgrades to the Civic Arena, rather than stick it out and wait for a new arena. If I remember, they accepted $10 - $12 million to pay for upgrades and install about 1,700 new premium seats. There was no appetite to build them a new arena after spending that much money just to spruce up the old one.

dave: it appears slots are an absolutely losing proposition if they are giving back less than 80% of what they take shouldn't this end because it will cause alot of problems for gamblers, you have no chance of winning at least in vegas they are above 95%?

Bill Toland: Slots are always a losing proposition. Unlike poker or black jack, where a skillful player can beat a rookie, in slots, the machines are designed to win over time. You can't beat the house.

Mediadavid: Can you describe other casinos this particular developer owns? there are a lot of cheesy awful casinos out sure are we that this won't end up like Harrah's Cherokee in Tennesse for instance?

Bill Toland: He has a small casino franchise, relative to IoC, and especially Harrah's. Twoof them are riverboats in Gary, Ind., so they can't really be compared to this casino. Barden also owns the Fitzgeralds line of casinos the one in Las Vegas, which is free-standing and attached to a hotel, might be the best comparison. Check it out at

kri316: my question is how did philly get 2 licensees and pittsburgh got 1---maybe something to do with the fact rendell is from philly

Bill Toland: Maybe. But Philly is bigger than Pittsburgh, too. Philly's metro population (including parts of NJ and Delaware) is about 5.9 million. Pittsburgh (including Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, etc) is about 2.4 million, less than half.

slotsforpols: If the Majestic Star or whatever is a flop financially....does this exempt the $7 million/year payments for the Arena from being paid?

Bill Toland: Don't know that answer to that. But any casino (or any business, for that matter) can minimize or eliminate certain debts and obligations by declaring bankruptcy.

1234: Do you think the Penguins made an error by putting all of their eggs in the same basket? Seems that it was quite a gamble (ironic) and that they lost. And do you think that their attitude (build an arena or else) rubbed the gaming board the wrong way?

Bill Toland: Hindsight is 20/20, and in hindsight, yes, they made an error. But I think it was a good gamble. It was enticing offer, and if it would have paid off, they would have gotten almost $300 million toward a new arena. Worth a shot, don't you think?

madpensfan: We must not forget our third new arena in the area paid by the state. The Peterson Event Center. The cost over runs alone could have paid a large chunk of the new arena. Why did Pitt not look to combine a multi-use arena with the Pens at that time? They would have had more seatting than the Pete.

Bill Toland: Heh, good point. Hey, maybe the Pens can play there?

kri316: i also feel that it should never have been left up to the gaming commission to decided the liscense owner--it should have been the local city goverments decision who got it, not a board who has nothing to do with the region

Bill Toland: No other state does it that way. Every state with casinos has some sort of gaming board that makes these decisions. Besides, after watching Pittsburgh be driven into the ground by its politicians over the last 20 years or so, would you really want to trust them with these sorts of decisions?

Team34: From what I have read, they want the Pens to pay, but the county keeps the naming rights were the Steelers and Pirates used the naming rights money as their share?

Bill Toland: Not sure about that. I'll check. Mellon, by the way, just left town -- wonder if they'll pull back on the naming rights.

jon: Can owning an arena not be a lucrative venture. Could someone who has money, not say, I will build an arena and rent it to the penguins and other city organizations who may need it and make money off of it. Why does it need to be a public facility?

Bill Toland: It doesn't. Other arenas and football stadiums have been built with private money. The problem is finding someone willing to spend that kind of dough, who doesn't mind not seeing a return on investment for years. If you can think of anyone, give him a call.

slotsforpols: the Question is not why Pitt didn't look into building a multi-purpose with the Pens....the question is....why didn't the Pens do it?

Bill Toland: Would have been tough to schedule. It's not just Pitt men's basketball that plays 20 dates a year at the Pete. Pitt women's play 20 some dates in the winter through March -- plus the volleyball team, etc, etc. Now try to squeeze 40-50 Pens home dates in there, during the same months.

bradjl2009: What about the Pittsburgh Gaming Board, do you think that they should have had more of a role in who got the license then just saying we think it should be that guy?

Bill Toland: I don't know how you increase their role (which was advisory) -- without stepping on the toes of the state gaming board. If the Pittsburgh task force makes the decision, what is the state board there for?

slotsforpols: Is Mark Cuban interested enuff in Hockey to be a majority owner? LOL

Bill Toland: Maybe Mark Cuban will buy the Post-Gazette while he's at it and give me a big raise.

dave: he paid $149 million for the three-casino Fitzgeralds deal, who evaluated his finances the expensive casino makes no sense?

Bill Toland: I'm not sure what you mean. If you're suggesting that building a $400 million casino makes no sense when you can buy three casinos for the price of $150 million, my answer is that the Fitzgerald chain was struggling, and could be had for a bargain-basement price. The price he paid for the Fitz chain doesn't necessarily have any relationship to the construction price of a new casino.

dave: pay back for detroit snub ? quote from barden "When you have Black people in control--not that they have to give you something because you're Black but because you're qualified, because you're one of the biggest taxpayers in the city and because you're the only Black in the bidding with the money and the expertise--you are disappointed when you're not given the opportunity to demonstrate that Blacks can perform on a professional basis like anyone else."

Bill Toland: I don't think the PGCB cared one way or another whether Don Barden was able to win a Detroit casino or not. I don't think they'd throw him a bone now because he failed in the past. If that's the case, Forest City deserves a bone -- they've been hoping for a casino in Station Square for a dozen years.

madpensfan: I have read in other areas Barden has backed out of promises to fund municipal projects that he promised due to lower than expected revenues. Have you heard any truth to that?

Bill Toland: I'm not aware of it, but it could well be true. When a company is in a competitive situation, it benefits them to promise the sun, moon and stars now, and if they can only deliver on the moon and stars down the road, so be it. I'd add that this kind of promising / backing out isn't restricted to casinos -- all sorts of businesses do it. Heck, even the city did it, promising all sorts of development around Three Rivers Stadium after it was built. And for 30 years, it was nothing but parking lots and the Clark Bar.

bradjl2009: Do you think that it is unfair that the 2 slots licenses will only be county apart and that the 2 stand alone slots parlor are not that for from the 2 in Philly.

Bill Toland: Unfair? Hard to say what's fair. But that's the more populous side of the state, and they also hope to draw gamblers from across the border in New York City and New Jersey. So it makes sense to have more casinos there than here. And remember, on the west side of the state, we were supposed to have six casinos -- Pittsburgh, Washington County, Nemacolin, Seven Springs, Erie and Beaver / Lawrence. But Nemacolin and Seven Springs pulled out at the last minute, and we're still waiting to hear whether a harness racing track / casino will ever end up in Beaver or Lawrence Counties.

bradjl2009: Yea thats true KC isn't exactly a good option because the city isn't really a Northern city, a city like Seattle or Milwaukee could use a team

Bill Toland: Seattle doesn't strike me as a hockey town. Wisconsin, that makes a little more sense.

Sports_N_at: How much of the decision to give the license to Barden do you think was based on his proposed location for the casino?

Bill Toland: A lot. It was a compromise location -- the Hill was right next to a neighborhood, but that neighborhood didn't want it. Station Square, no nearby residential neighborhood -- but lots of traffic problems. In the end, Barden's location was the least controvesrial.

1234: Why are people so irate? A hockey team (or any sports team for that matter), should NEVER dictate public policy. To say IOC is what was best for the city is a slap to the residents of the Hill, commuters affected by the traffic in town, Duquesne University (a Casino right next to a major university???) This affects people's homes, their neighborhood, and people are upset about the threats of a hockey team leaving?

Bill Toland: People are irate because they love the Pens. People can get irrational when someone / thing they love threatens to leave them. (You owe me 5 cents for the amateur psychology diagnosis, by the way)

bradjl2009: Couldn't LUke or Dan vote to not let Majestic Star not build in the North Shore thus, not letting them come to Pittsburgh?

Bill Toland: I suppose they could try. But the city budget depends on gambling revenue, starting in 2007 (it won't be there) and will continue to depend on it into the future. They'd be crazy to tie it up in the courts for the next several years. It's cutting off your nose to spite your face. Or something.

PittsburghFan: With the largest removable roof, why havent they just "rehabed" the building, or did they cover that question years ago?

Bill Toland: They've tried rehabbing it -- I mentioned that before. After a while, it's a question of dimimishing returns. (I learned that term in an economics class. I have no idea what it means.)

jomojmp: When the gaming board determined the economic benefits of a plan was economic loss, also factored in, ie losing a pro sports team?

Bill Toland: I doubt the math got that far.

dave: why should i have to pay out of my tax dollars for an arena, and the barden keep all the money?

Bill Toland: Barden doesn't want your tax money. He wants the money that you feed into the slot machines. I take it you won't be a regular customer?

madpensfan: If Barden wants to create good will, do you think he will provide help in the keeping of the Pens in Pittsburgh? Or will he make a bad decision and ignore the issue? What are your thoughts?

Bill Toland: I think he'll step up and offer more. Just a hunch.

dave: apparently reading their assesment they have never actually tried to leave a steeler/panther game through the west end bridge

Bill Toland: I park downtown, then walk across the Clemente Bridge. Much easier. Much less traffic. Use your legs, people!

sad_pens_fan: What is the chance that the Pens will actually remain in Pittsburgh? It seems to me Lemieux has done everything in his power to keep the team here, and has been rebuffed each time.

Bill Toland: I still think the chances are good. Again, a lot depends on a new owner. We don't know who that mystery man is yet. Does anybody have Howard Baldwin's phone number?

bradjl2009: Do you think as of now that December 20th will go down as a bad day in the history of Pittsburgh, and I think the Pens should leave the HIll because it seems they don't care about the Pens if the don't want IoC.

Bill Toland: I think the Hill was in a tough spot. Probably many in the hill like the Pens. But be honest -- would you want a casino a block or two or three from where you live? (like the people at Crawford Square). Or would you prefer a new arena, but want the casino to go someplace else?

Pickman: Who collects the rent for Heinz Field and PNC Park? And if the Isle of Capri bought the arena, who would have owned and operated (collected that rent income) for the arena, and who would own and operate (collect the income) for this Plan B? I just think this was a piece that I don't fully understand, especially when I was weighing if the city, county, and state, may collect the revenues from the rent and contracting out events of the arena.

Bill Toland: Don't hold me to this, but I believe the arena would have been turned over to the SEA after Isle of Capri and Nationwide built it. I guess it's a moot point now.

Save_the_Pens: What effect do you think that Lemieux's announcement that the Pens are no longer for sale will have on arena negotiations?

Bill Toland: I would think it would hasten them.

slotsforpols: IOC should go ahead and big a HUGE bingo parlor.....since bingo is more popular in the burg than slots anyway...don't u think? Bill Toland: They should just buy a bar or two and stock it with illegal poker machines.

jon: In your opinion does Pittsburgh deserve Mario Lemieux as a citizen? Quick answer is NO. Long answer is NO. And the in depth answer is NO.

Bill Toland: Don't blame Pittsburgh for this. If Pittsburgh, the city and her people, had been asked to vote on Nov. 7 on whether the Pens and IoC should get the casino license, I suspect they would have voted 'yes.'

Bill Toland: That's all folks -- it's been more than an hour. Great questions. I hope we can do it again soon. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and everything else. Until next year --


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