Saturday, July 30, 2005

A lot of nothing but hot air from Murphy's expresions without doing all the homework!

Tom Murphy and I have something in common. We both are gambling skpetics. However, Murphy liet the city spiral downward so that the only way we could come back to life was with a gambling bill.
City leaders advised on slots gambling, its impact 'I am a gaming skeptic,' said Murphy, as he left an hour into Lendler's three-hour talk. 'I think it will have consequences to the city both positive and negative, and it's important to understand that now.'

Too bad Murphy didn't leave after one term into his three term stint.


Anonymous said...

City leaders advised on slots gambling, its impact

Friday, July 29, 2005
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Picture the opulent Bellagio Las Vegas casino, its 14 rows of windows overlooking illuminated arcs of water leaping from a shimmering desert pond.

Now conjure some of West Virginia's stout, aesthetically modest slot machine halls.

A consultant who met yesterday with the Pittsburgh Gaming Task Force suggested that the city won't get the former but can aim for something snazzier than the latter.

"You can hope for something more than a Home Depot with a parking lot," said Jennifer K. Lendler, a gambling industry veteran retained by the task force.

The task force has been charged by Mayor Tom Murphy with studying the potential impact of the slots casino slated for Pittsburgh.

Lendler said casino operators want their facilities to "generate excitement," but always watch the bottom line. "Design is not always high on the list" of priorities, she said.

Casino companies look first at access -- how quickly patrons can get in, park and get out.

If city planners want to encourage the developer to put up an attractive building in a favorable spot likely to have a positive economic impact, they'll have location working for them, she said. Pittsburgh is a major metropolitan area close to gambling-free Ohio, so casino operators may be willing to spend money to make a splash here.

Working against any Bellagio dreams, though, is a state law siphoning more than half of slots revenues to state, county and municipal governments, she said.

In most Midwestern states, casino operators pay 20 percent to 25 percent of the house's take to the tax man, Lendler said.

"The most fantastical designs, not surprisingly, exist in the markets with the lowest tax rates," she said.

Lendler said a Pittsburgh slots parlor might resemble in size a trio of casinos in Detroit.

There, the operators each have 100,000 square feet of gambling space on a single level, at least 4,000 parking spaces in attached garages, 400-room hotels, conference centers and restaurants. One of the three Detroit facilities is crammed onto 7.5 acres, but the others take up 25 acres.

Sites considered contenders for a casino in Pittsburgh range from four acres near PNC Park on the North Shore to 635 acres in the city's Hays section.

Task force members asked whether it would be better to encourage would-be casino developers to tout the merits of competing locations, or choose a single, city-controlled site and hold a design competition. Lendler said she has seen both models work.

Casinos can spur development around them, she said, "but it's no slam-dunk." A casino in an obscure location won't attract other businesses, and sometimes it takes tax breaks to create spin-off development, she said.

A June ruling by the state Supreme Court gave municipalities the right to regulate casino locations and designs.

Lendler cautioned against putting excessive restrictions on casinos.

"To the extent that a cooperative relationship can be established early on, oh boy, I can't emphasize that enough," she said.

Lendler will continue to work for the task force, funded by the Heinz Endowments, Stadium Authority, Sports & Exhibition Authority and the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority. She'll study the likely profits from a casino here, and advise on how to negotiate with giant gambling companies like Harrah's Entertainment, for which she worked as a manager for seven years.

Though just two dozen people attended yesterday's meeting, the roster hinted at the interest in eyeing gambling's coming carefully.

Mayor Murphy, Allegheny County Councilman Dave Fawcett and city Councilman Sala Udin attended. State Sen. Jim Ferlo, Democratic mayoral nominee Bob O'Connor, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh Building Trades Council and University of Pittsburgh were represented.

Lendler painted a relentlessly positive picture of gambling, begging off questions about its social impacts and saying she hasn't "seen a lot of economic negatives" in cities that have embraced it.

Neighboring restaurants and entertainment options tend to benefit from gambling's arrival, she said, because it pulls in visitors.

At least one attendee wasn't completely swayed.

"I am a gaming skeptic," said Murphy, as he left an hour into Lendler's three-hour talk. "I think it will have consequences to the city both positive and negative, and it's important to understand that now."

(Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.)

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