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Anti-Casino Protest at Rendell's City Office

Anti-casino protest at Rendell’s city office

By Jennifer Lin
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Several large church groups stepped up their opposition today to a slots parlor in Center City, joining an anti-casino protest outside the Philadelphia offices of Gov. Rendell.

About 50 people, including the head of the influential Black Clergy of Philadelphia, chanted "No Slots" and held up anti-casino signs in English and Chinese at the Bellevue building, which is also the headquarters of the real estate trust that owns the Gallery mall.

Last September, the partners behind the Foxwoods casino said they would move the slots parlor from the waterfront in South Philadelphia to space in the Gallery mall.

The anti-casino coaltion, however, said the problems stemming from gambling addiction will outweigh any economic benefits of a casino.

"This is not just a hobby for rich people. This will hurt all of us," said Bishop Peggy Johnson, who represents 900 churches with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Ellis Washington, head of the 200-member Black Clergy of Philadelphia, said his organization decided it was "time to get involved."

Washington said that the Foxwoods casino's proposed relocation to the Gallery compelled many black pastors to take a stand against gambling in Center City.

He said if Foxwoods moves to the Gallery, a hub for public transit, gambling will be even more accessible to even greater numbers of people.

"We really began to be more incensed about it," Washington said. "It aims to take money from the pockets of Philadelphians who can least afford it."

The coalition represents 42 educational, religious and social service groups, as well as Casino Free Philadelphia, another anti-casino group that emerged after the 2006 selection of Foxwoods and SugarHouse for gaming licenses.

Casino Free plans to hold the first of a series of four town hall meetings tonight at the Center City offices of Liberty Resources, a social service agency for people with disabilities.

Washington said the coalition viewed the slots business as predatory. "We do not build a healthy economy or a balanced budget by increasing levels of poverty and addiction amoung our citizens," he said.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com.

Originally posted on philly.com.

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