Isle of Capri makes final argument for license

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HARRISBURG - The Penguins' future in Pittsburgh and the Isle of Capri's $290 million pledge to fund a new arena dominated the casino operator's final argument before the state gaming control board today on the eve of the expected award of the city's lone slot machine license.

   
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State gaming control board members pressed Isle of Capri attorney Mark Stewart on whether there were any loopholes that would permit a new Penguins owner to move the team even if Isle of Capri got the license. Mr. Stewart answered no, that the agreement between the Penguins and the Isle of Capri required any new owner to stay in Pittsburgh for at least 20 years if casino operator wins the coveted license.

"Anybody who buys [the Penguins] is required to step into their shoes," he said.

He added that any potential owner who breaks the agreement could be subject to liquidated damages -- hundreds of millions of dollars, according to one estimate -- and possible court action to block any move.

Isle of Capri was the only one of the three Pittsburgh bidders to make an 11th-hour pitch to the board today, as it prepared to begin final deliberations later this afternoon on the award of five stand alone slot machine casinos in the state, two in Philadelphia, one in Pittsburgh, and two at large. The other two competitors -- Forest City Enterprises and PITG Gaming LLC -- choose to let the record stand without any closing statements.

Mr. Stewart said the Isle of Capri wanted to address the board because of the decision Friday by Jim Balsillie to terminate his bid to buy the Penguins. He said that the decision "blindsided" Isle of Capri officials.

Philadelphia bidders made their final arguments before the board this morning. The at-large bidders were to get their last shot this afternoon.

The board is expected to begin closed-door deliberations after hearing all the arguments, hoping to reach agreement on the licenses by tomorrow morning's public meeting at 10 o'clock.



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