Wynn Makes Play for Last Casino License in Philly

by , Nov 20, 2012 | 1:00 pm

Steve Wynn is going to bid for the last casino license in Philadelphia.

The chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd. proposes to build a 150,000-square-foot casino with 900 slot machines and 100 table games and a 300-room hotel on about 60 acres of waterfront property, a company spokesman confirmed Thursday.

Michael Weaver, senior vice president marketing strategy at Wynn Resorts, said the company will file for a casino license by the state’s Nov. 15 deadline. The Las Vegas-based gaming company had proposed building a $600 million casino in the spring of 2010 in Philadelphia before pulling out.

“We are excited about Philadelphia and the opportunity afforded by our piece of property on the banks of the Delaware River,” said Wynn, who is also his company’s CEO. “It allows for a luxury hotel complex and the introduction of the Wynn brand to Philadelphia.”

Wynn said his assignment was to build a resort that attracted visitors to the city.

“We hope to create a resort of a caliber not currently in existence on the eastern seaboard,” the casino mogul said in a statement. “Our proposed resort begins with a hotel, retail esplanade, restaurants and entertainment, and can grow as the market progresses and we build clientele.”

The gaming company operates Wynn Las Vegas and Encore on the Strip and Wynn and Encore properties in Macau. Wynn Resorts is also building a $3 billion resort on the Cotai Strip in Macau.

Wynn Resorts is expected to release a rendering of the Philadelphia project on Tuesday.

“While some might question the move to Philadelphia, we think a high-end casino with a limited investment could allow for more adequate return on capital,” Janney Capital Markets analyst Brian McGill said Thursday.

Wynn Resorts has joined local developer Bart Blatstein and a partnership of Cordish Cos. and Greenwood Gaming in competition to build a second Philadelphia casino.

The SugarHouse casino has been open in Philadelphia since 2010.

McGill said the positive news is that this would be the last license in Philadelphia and Wynn Resorts would not need to worry about additional competition. He expected a Wynn Resorts property to grow the market, as well as “take share” from the SugarHouse casino.

Gross revenue at the 11 casinos in Pennsylvania was down 4.4 percent in October to $188.4 million, compared with $197.2 million during the same period in 2011. The decline, blamed partly on the effect of Superstorm Sandy, marked just the fourth time since the state’s first casino opened in 2006 that monthly slots revenue was down.

“It remains to be seen what the reaction will be from state officials, given the fact that Wynn pulled out two years ago,” McGill said. “We would still have to think that Wynn would be the favorite for the license.”

In 2010, Wynn said he’d support the now-defunct Foxwoods casino project in the city, and then backed out. McGill didn’t expect much of a drop-off in play at either Harrah’s in Chester or Parx casino in Bensalem due to a Wynn Resorts casino in Philadelphia.

Penn National Gaming Inc. could also submit a bid for Philadelphia, he said. Penn National executives were unavailable for comment Thursday.

McGill said this project was important for Wynn Resorts, but “would still be a minor piece of the overall company due to the due to the size of the property in Macau.”

Shares of Wynn Resorts lost $1.78, or 1.6 percent, Thursday to close at $109.25 on average volume of 1.64 million shares traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. The company’s shares have traded in a 52-week range from a low of $90.11 to a high of $138.28.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.
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