Construction Of New Philadelphia Casino Now Jeopardized By Coronavirus

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It appears work on Pennsylvania’s biggest casino project in a decade won’t be able to continue unabated in Philadelphia after all.

Local media reports indicate that the $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia project has run into problems with both the state and unions supplying construction workers.

Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies and its contractor, Gilbane Building Co., could now be thrown off schedule in plans to have Philadelphia’s second casino ready for a late-2020 opening.

It was previously reported that Gilbane had obtained a waiver from the state Department of Community and Economic Development entitling it to continue work on the project despite an order that non-essential businesses shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new reports state that progress on the project can continue only temporarily, and workers on the hotel-casino may be kept away due to health and safety concerns at the site.

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The work may continue only to safely shut down work

Spotlight PA, a statewide news-gathering operation, reported that the state had clarified that work could continue only to enable a safe shutdown of operations.

“An exemption was granted to Gilbane Construction, but that exemption does not allow for casino construction,” DCED spokeswoman Casey Smith told Spotlight PA.

The Cordish Companies, which owns the Live! project’s developer, Stadium Casino LLC,  told the news organization: “In the case of the casino project, the building is still exposed to the elements and requires critical enclosure and infrastructure work to be completed before construction work can be safely paused.”

Meanwhile, radio station WHYY reported that only about 50 workers were on the job at the block-long site this week, instead of the 500 that would be there normally.

There have been health concerns because of two workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 infection. Some union representatives have alleged that workers’ safety has been jeopardized from failure to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“While some job sites have reopened in Pennsylvania via the waiver process, it is unfortunate that the General Contractors on a few of these projects were not complying with the CDC regulations. Because of this, we felt that the workers on those projects were in danger and it was decided to pull our Local 19 members off of those sites,” Gary Masino, president of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, wrote in an April 6 letter cited by WHYY.

Delay would put Live! in the same boat with other projects

The construction project is one of the largest ongoing in Pennsylvania and will give the state its 13th casino. The Live! casino, being built near the city’s sports venues in South Philadelphia, is to have 2,200 slot machines and 150-plus table games.

The coronavirus scare has halted construction work on two mini-casinos in central Pennsylvania planned by Penn National Gaming. Those appear unlikely to open later this year, as had been scheduled.

The health threat has also jeopardized progress on the Cordish Companies’ mini-casino project at Westmoreland Mall in suburban Pittsburgh, although Cordish has not delivered a status report on whether it expects to still complete that by the end of 2020.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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