Saturday, August 16, 2008

Construction on Casino Could Resume Tuesday

Construction on Pittsburgh's casino on the North Shore will not resume until at least Tuesday. Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm and his company, Walton Group, are expected to close on $600 million in loans on Monday to help complete the project. Bluhm had anticipated wrapping up the financing yesterday. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted 7-0 to transfer the slots license from Don Barden to Bluhm and his company. Board Commissioner Ken McCabe said revoking the original license and re-bidding the project would have been disastrous for Pittsburgh "I think the $7.5 million (annually for 3o years) to the arena, the $3 million to the North Side leadership, and the $3 million to the Hill District would be off the table."

Don Barden, who was awarded the license December 20, 2006, will now have about a 16% stake in the casino. He says he's disappointed the difficult credit market has relegated him to a much smaller position in the deal "On the other hand I'm happy for the people of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth that this project is going to go on as I originally dreamed it. It will be a dream fulfilled I just won't receive the benefits of what we had originally contemplated."

Bluhm told the Gaming Board that his company is pouring $205 million into the project to help pay off the original loan to get work started and to pay the contractors and workers. Contractors halted work July 1st when they didn't get paid. They are owed $50 million.

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