Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Why We Should Be Rooting for Blatstein's Casino
Developer Bart Blatstein is set to unveil his plans for a second casino Wednesday night. The local reaction has been muted when it should be excited. The dreams of developers are what transform a city. Until Willard Rouse fantasized about building a tower taller than William Penn, Philadelphia's skyline was rather stunted. Although it had financial troubles, Jack Blumenfeld's Abbot Square helped transform Society Hill.
The Inquirer' veteran business reporter Joe DiStefano asked in Philly Deals blog post if we really needed another casino when the Atlantic City and local casinos are floundering.
Blatstein is planning to spend $700 million to build a first class resort, which will target high end gamblers. The current casinos in Pennsylvania are not first class. The Valley Forge Casino Resort was advertising a room for $100 on Groupon this summer.
Blatstein can deliver a 5 star destination resort. He is the developer that turned Northern Liberties from a blighted area to the neighborhood that Esquire magazine named Night Life Capital of the US. When my friends from Milan, Italy visited his Piazza at Schmidt's, they kept asking are you sure that he is not Italian. The recent security problems are a result of human nature not design flaws.
Some Atlantic City resorts, notably Revel, are top tier. The problem is that it is not easy to get to Atlantic City. Like many city dwellers, I do not have a car. My bus to the Tropicana this summer stopped 4 times before it reached its destination. There are few direct airplane flights to Atlantic City.
Once you get to Atlantic City, there is not much to do besides gambling. Visitors to Blatstein's resort will have all of Philadelphia, including the world class museums, theaters, restaurants, and stores, at their fingertips.
The Valley Forge Casino Resort thought that it would be successful because it is located in one of the richest counties in the country. The managers do not understand high rollers. Gamblers tend to be risk takers. The old money that dominates the Main Line is known for conserving their cash. Suburban family men are not usually sneaking out of their mansions to throw craps at the neighborhood casino. It is a guy's night out.
The $10 resort fee that the state mandates they charge is a turn off many gamblers. Gamblers often rationalize their losses by offsetting the perks that the casinos lavish on them.This rationalization falls apart when you have to pay $10 to enter the gambling hall.
A second casino in Philadelphia by a first class developer is a win for Philadelphia.
Stay tuned for my opinion of his plans.