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Monday, March 1, 2010

Wynn Outlines Plan for Foxwoods Casino

Philadelphia Inquirer

Stephen A. Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, said yesterday that he would go to Harrisburg Wednesday to outline to the state Gaming Control Board his plans for a Philadelphia casino that he said would be "the cutest casino you have ever seen."

Wynn discussed for the first time his ideas for reviving the Foxwoods project in South Philadelphia during a conference call with stock analysts after the release of the Las Vegas company's year-end results.

Wynn Resorts confirmed Tuesday that it had signed a letter of intent to take control of developing and running the struggling Foxwoods Casino project. But the deal is contingent on approval from Pennsylvania gaming regulators. The Foxwoods project is at risk of losing its license for repeated delays since winning one of the city's two slots licenses in 2006.

Wynn said he would not build a hotel on the Columbus Boulevard site but would focus on developing a "straightforward casino" and not a "destination resort." The original plan for Foxwoods called for eventually building a hotel on the site.

He only offered a general idea of what he had in mind, saying it would be a one-story casino with two or three levels of parking on either side.

Asked how much Wynn Resorts would spend on the waterfront site, Wynn did not directly answer, saying only it would not be "an earth-shaking number."

He said he had spent "eight to nine hours a day" for the last several weeks trying to work out the details of developing a Philadelphia casino.

"I'm happy to say we're feeling very good about it," Wynn told analysts. He said the building "will not look like slots in a box."

"It will have all the bells and whistles of a good-looking casino," including 3,000 slot machines, table games, a poker room, an Italian restaurant, a steak house, and an Asian restaurant, he said.

Wynn, 67, was enthusiastic about the project site on Columbus Boulevard and that it was blocks from the Italian and Vietnamese neighborhoods of South Philadelphia.

Wynn called its proximity to Society Hill and the Walt Whitman Bridge "a dandy."

He said the area was "all full of my old friends - the Italians and Jews and every conceivable type of ethnic group that likes to play craps and gamble - and they're only 10 minutes away."

"I love the proximity of the Vietnamese neighborhood, and I'm going to put in a Vietnamese restaurant for them," he said.

If regulators approve the project, Wynn said, he hoped to be "out of the box as quickly as we can."

He said he knows the region, having operated the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City from 1980 to 1987.

"We dominated the Atlantic City market," he said. "We love the South Jersey market and we like Philadelphia."

He said the company's Las Vegas properties could benefit from ties to Philadelphia.

Yesterday, Wynn Resorts reported 2009 net income of $20.6 million on revenue of $3 billion.

Wynn Resorts would take over developing and managing the project from the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the flagship Foxwoods Casino in southeastern Connecticut. The tribe, as well as local investors, would maintain an interest in the project, but not a majority stake.

The project has faced intense neighborhood and political opposition. The investor group tried to move the project to Center City but failed. Regulators in August ordered them to use the original waterfront site.

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