View Full Version : Bluhm tells lawmakers casino deal in peril

07-24-2008, 11:25 AM
Bluhm tells lawmakers casino deal in peril
By Brad Bumsted and Michael Wereschagin
Thursday, July 24, 2008

HARRISBURG -- The Chicago billionaire trying to get control of Pittsburgh's troubled casino project said the state Gaming Control Board has about a week to approve his takeover or the project could hit the skids.

"If this deal isn't put together, the project goes into bankruptcy," Neil Bluhm told a state senate committee this morning.

Failing to finalize the complex, $780 million deal by July 30 means contractors at the construction site can raise their prices, the property could be sold to pay off owner Don Barden's debt, and a wave of litigation could swamp efforts to restart the beleaguered project, Bluhm said.

The casino's steel skeleton already sits on the site, dwarfed by the half-completed concrete parking garage.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo accused Bluhm of putting a "gun to the head of the city of Pittsburgh."

The city is counting on millions of dollars in taxes from the casino to balance its budget next year. The Penguins expect casino owners to pay $7.5 million a year for 30 years to pay for a new arena. Community groups in the Hill District stand to get $3 million a year for five years for economic development, and North Side groups expected $1 million a year for three years for the same.

The senate panel called its meeting amid concerns that improper influence is being brought to bear in the proposed ownership change. Bluhm and another new investor, Philadelphia real estate developer Ira Lubert, are large campaign contributors of Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. Another powerful Philadelphia lawmaker, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, said he called two gambling board members to urge them to support letting Bluhm take over from current owner Don Barden.

"We will get into news accounts that have caused me great concern about conversations" between government officials, investors and gaming board members, said state Sen. Jane Earll.

Evans and Rendell also took part in two conference calls with Bluhm and Barden.

An investment team headed by Bluhm reached an agreement to take control of the casino project from Barden, who was awarded the $50 million license in 2006. Barden ran out of money after starting construction.

Bluhm is a billionaire and a developer with a trail of successful projects behind him. He is also an investor in the planned Sugarhouse casino in Philadelphia.

Bluhm's team would invest $170 million in exchange for a 75-percent stake in the $780 million casino if the gambling board approves the agreement.

Some lawmakers contend the licensing processing should start from scratch given the new ownership and be open to other bidders.

Bluhm and another investor, Ira Lubert, long have been prominent figures in Philadelphia, where Rendell served as mayor. Lubert has donated about $141,000 to Rendell since 2000. He plans to contribute about $10 million to the casino project.

Bluhm donated about $60,000 to Rendell. Bluhm also gave $320,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the past 11 years, including $110,000 in 2000, when Rendell was the national chairman.

The governor was "certainly not" influenced by those contributions, his spokesman, Chuck Ardo, has said. Rendell has raised millions of dollars during that time period.

07-24-2008, 11:27 AM
I guess we all should look forward to helping pay for the new arena.

07-24-2008, 12:11 PM
bottom line: Who's getting screwed in this deal?

07-24-2008, 03:06 PM
If Fat Eddie would have accepted the Isle of Capri deal, none of this BS would be happening right now. Dirty, fat, rotten scoundrel just HAD to get his $30,000 kickback. :mad::mad:

07-24-2008, 09:48 PM
If Fat Eddie would have accepted the Isle of Capri deal, none of this BS would be happening right now. Dirty, fat, rotten scoundrel just HAD to get his $30,000 kickback. :mad::mad:

One more reason why we haven't had a governor the last 8 years. His job is still mayor of Philadelphia with the title of Governor of Pennsylvania.

07-24-2008, 11:31 PM
don't blame me i voted for swann. just pray if Obama wins in november he doesn't get either a cabinet or seat on supreme court.

07-25-2008, 02:08 AM

Even though I don't live there, I really don't want to see a casino next to the stadium.

For some reason, it just doesn't say "STEELERS" to me.

I know I know, downtown renovation. i would just be very upset if I lived there.

07-25-2008, 02:22 AM
Only in PA can lawmakers manage to screw up a project of this magnitude. Yeah, let's give the license to the guy with a track record of red ink, rather than the guys who have track records of success and solid investors with deep pockets. Brilliant idea! :doh: If you'll notice, though, there haven't been any problems reported with either of Philadelphia's casinos. Gee, I wonder why?

My guess is that Bluhm ends up taking over, but it's going to go down to literally the last minute. The last thing they would want to do would be to strip Barden of the license outright and re-open the bidding process for a whole host of reasons, the biggest one being that the tax money has already been allocated, and any lengthy delay could be a big problem.

The new arena, BTW, is safe because all of the money - $290 million in bonds - is in place for construction.