Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Revitalization in Phoenixville - Is there another solution to economic woes?

Many years ago when I first learned about off-track betting coming to the burbs, I cautiously put forth the notion that Phoenixville could possibly house a facility such as the Turf Club in Oaks. At the time, I was told that a "dark" side existed to this industry in the form of attracting prostitution and drugs.

Oaks still looks the same to me.

I haven't read of massive raids on brothels nor have I heard of major drug busts in the area. Doesn't mean the negative elements don't exist, I just haven't heard or seen any.

Since we are now 12, exactly ONE DOZEN YEARS past the date of sale of the former Phoenix Steel property, and it is STILL an unsightly scar running through the heart of our town. Isn't it about time to step outside the box and think along the lines of extending the entertainment district of the downtown?

I had first actively sought interest in the Iron Company property by contacting the former owners of the Music Fair thinking that their entertainment venue would be sorely missed, as it indeed is. However, the family was not interested in pursuing a Music Fair II.

Darn shame.

The idea of office buildings on those 120-130 acres bores me to death. The only thing that would soften the impact of knowing that people are down there doing their 9 to 5 grind would be my "Riverwalk" type development idea along French Creek. Otherwise, office buildings just won't measure up to a true "destination point" for me.

By a read of different news articles, the gaming industry in Pennsylvania is still prospering even during these difficult economic times, and apparently Pennsylvanian's do like to gamble.

"Horse racing in Pennsylvania supports about 35,000 jobs and generates $752 million in economic activity. Although Pennsylvania has 21 off-track wagering facilities in addition to the tracks themselves, the industry says it’s been hard hit by slot machines at West Virginia and Delaware racetracks. The industry wants the legislature to "level the playing field."

A 2002 study conducted for Harrah’s estimated 2 million of Pennsylvania’s 8,842,000 adult residents each made an average five trips outside Pennsylvania annually to gamble. About 85% of those trips were to surrounding states, mostly to Atlantic City, New Jersey. If Pennsylvania gamblers are typical, slots are their favorite game, accounting for 72% of games played."

I have no knowledge of the state's plans to increase the number of casinos or betting parlors, but I present this as just another idea which brings jobs and revenue.

Anyone else want to start thinking outside the box?


Slots revenue in state bucking the odds

Despite weak economy, five casinos show 10 percent year-over-year gain in July

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

By Gary Rotstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Economic woes, soaring gasoline prices, smoking bans and other factors have put the national casino industry in a rare downturn in 2008, but you wouldn't know it from operators' experiences in Pennsylvania.

The five Pennsylvania slots parlors that have been operating for more than a year generated almost 10 percent more combined revenue last month than in July 2007 -- $116.9 million compared with $106.4 million. Those amounts are the equivalent of what slots players lose in the machines.

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino was among the growth leaders, with its $23.1 million in revenue, almost 16 percent more than the $20 million it reported in the same month a year ago. Because the slots parlor in Washington County opened in mid-June of 2007, July represented the first chance to assess whether it has been hurt by economic factors, the addition of table games by its West Virginia competitors or anything else.

Nothing of the sort appears to have stalled Western Pennsylvanians' slots appetite and desire to play the machines locally.

"With the economy the way it is and gas prices, people are going to stay close to home, and we have a good population around us," said Mike Graninger, general manager of The Meadows.

He acknowledged that the facility has given away far more free play than anticipated to entice customers -- more than $3 million worth last month -- but it's also about to get a boost in visits from the opening Aug. 29 of a huge Tanger Outlet Center retail complex across the road.

The Philadelphia Park casino has seen even bigger revenue growth of 22 percent over the past year, while Presque Isle Downs & Casino grew 9 percent and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs was up 8 percent. Only Harrah's Chester Downs in suburban Philadelphia, with a 2 percent drop, showed year-to-year decline.

Two other casinos have opened in the past year in Pennsylvania: Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos and Penn National's Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg. Combined, the seven generated more than $151 million for operators and the state last month.

If such numbers were to continue regularly -- a challenge, because July is traditionally one of the best months for casinos -- and if future casinos anticipated in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and elsewhere are successful, the state could in fact reach the $3 billion revenue goal the Rendell administration originally projected from slots.

Some of the existing casinos, including The Meadows, are also likely to gain from replacing temporary slots sites with larger facilities with more machines and amenities.

"Any casino that's showing year-over-year revenue gains in this economy ought to be happy," said Joe Weinert, an industry analyst for Spectrum Gaming Group.

"If you look on the East Coast, Pennsylvania is doing very well. Most markets are reporting year-over-year declines in gross gaming revenue. ... Within the gaming industry right now, Pennsylvania's a good story."

Aside from the economy, much of the trouble for neighboring states' casinos is from Pennsylvania's competition. West Virginia's slots revenue was down nearly 10 percent from June to June -- the latest comparison available -- while Atlantic City's casinos were off 11 percent in the same period. Analysts believe new smoking restrictions were also a factor in New Jersey, as in Illinois and Colorado.

Places far removed from Pennsylvania have also had troubles, leading to layoffs and plummeting stock prices for many casino companies. Nevada's drop of 15 percent in May casino revenue from the year before was the largest since compilation of monthly revenue began in 1984.

"You definitely are seeing casinos impacted by the economy -- there's no doubt about that -- but it's not universal in terms of the effects," said American Gaming Association spokeswoman Holly Thomsen.

"Some of the markets that rely on more of a drive-in business have not decreased revenues," she noted, "and Pennsylvania gaming and slots at tracks are still relatively new concepts there. You still might be getting people who are potentially going for the first time."

Gary Rotstein can be reached at or 412-263-1255.
First published on August 6, 2008 at 12:00 am


Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Office buildings would bore you to death yet you don't like what the CDC has done downtown? Without the CDC "Bling" don't you think Bridge street itself would be pretty darn boring? What exactly would be so great about the Riverwalk idea and who keep it going if we can't even commit to Bridge Street ?!? I thought we couldn't AFFORD Bling? I say put up all the boring office buildings you can and forget Riverwalk. At least we can fill our oil tanks with the tax dollars saved!!

Karen said...

Anonymous, do not misconstrue my written words. They are easily enough checked on this blog.

The fact is I happen to like and do enjoy the downtown bling.

My personal opinion on the look of the town is not an issue on this particular thread.

Perhaps your comments were intended for the previous thread entitled, "Borough Council's obligation to Phoenixville taxpayers vs CDC Bling".

In the above mentioned thread, my position is clearly stated. Taxpayers cannot afford double-digit increases year after year, especially in this time of economic distress.

Anonymous said...

The only comment I would have is where would the people come from who are doing the betting? I have been in one of these facilities and yes they are fun. However, I would not like to see Phoenixville residents having a gambling problem. I think we should take a look at the facility in Chester first and find out where their "betters" come from. Further, I am not sure we need more "drinking" establishments in Phoenixville.

Karen said...

I would like to repeat this closing comment from the thread.

"I have no knowledge of the state's plans to increase the number of casinos or betting parlors, but I present this as just another idea which brings jobs and revenue.

Anyone else want to start thinking outside the box?"

Yes, the casinos are fun.

Yes, the casinos bring in revenue, both state and local.

Yes, the casinos attract other businesses.

And, yes, the casinos create many jobs.

My main intent and purpose, is to show that there are some industries/businessess which continue to do well in harsh economic times, and we (the borough, the CDC, the Chamber of Commerce?) should be doing research on the same, and working with any potential developers towards attracting those businesses/industries which show some "fail-safe" attributes in addition to the above indicated obvious benefits.

We should also be thinking BIG as well as outside the box.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

Sure,the downtown looks nice and people have fun on First Fridays.

But, it's all "Bling". And, it's costing taxpayers money which, by all accounts will be needed for the 2009 budget.

Anonymous said...

Oh my lord. The "bling" thing has to stop. By most peoples accounts they can directly tie their housing price increases (some of it) to the downtown progress. If you don't see that then I don't know what rock you have been under for 3 years since the town really started to take off.

Anonymous said...

3 years ago last month 3 new police started on the force.