HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Former NBA star Michael Jordan could
become an investor in a slot-machine parlor in Philadelphia, state
gambling regulators were told Wednesday.
Regulators on Wednesday concluded three days of hearings on
applications by five groups -- professional casino operators with
politically connected or celebrity investment partners -- hoping to
open slots casinos in Philadelphia. Jordan's became the latest
celebrity name to be dropped by applicants competing for licenses
in what could be the nation's largest city with standalone casinos.
The two licenses up for grabs in Philadelphia would allow the
owners to install up to 5,000 slot machines in each of their
proposed gambling halls. The state has not legalized table games.
Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. testified Wednesday
in support of its proposed $350 million waterfront slots parlor on
the Delaware River.
If Pinnacle gets a license, company officials plan to bring in
Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television,
as a partner.
In testimony, Johnson told members of the Pennsylvania Gaming
Control Board that he would sell part of his one-third stake in the
slots parlor to Jordan, who is a partner of Johnson's in the NBA's
Charlotte Bobcats. Attaching the name of a celebrity to the
gambling establishment should help improve its draw, he said.
With minority involvement one of the gaming board's criteria for
awarding a license, Johnson said he hoped that his investment would
ensure that Pinnacle provides job opportunities for minorities.
Over the next three weeks, the gaming board plans to hear from
eight slots applicants from Pittsburgh and other parts of the state
that are competing for three more highly sought-after licenses.
The gaming board plans to vote Dec. 20 to award as many as 12
permanent slots licenses to racetracks, resorts and the standalone
Three of the five Philadelphia applicants -- those led by
Pinnacle, Donald Trump's casino company and billionaire developer
Neil G. Bluhm -- cleared gaming board reviews for legal and
But groups led by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and
Planet Hollywood International Inc. did not, and will have to
resolve those issues in the coming weeks if they expect to compete
for a license.
C. Patrick McKoy, the chief executive of Planet Hollywood's
proposed Riverwalk Casino, said the board wants to address
questions about the casino's ownership structure.
Under Planet Hollywood's deal, a partnership group composed
primarily of politically connected and minority investors from
Philadelphia would get 51 percent of the profits, but would not be
responsible for a commensurate amount of upfront capital.
McKoy defended the financial structure as viable, and said the
partnership group had spent money and time drawing up a legal
organization and finding a casino operator as its partner.
"They didn't just jump on board and say that we want a profit
distribution from a casino company," McKoy said.