2008-09-24 / Local & State

Trump, Irked By Casino Move, Criticizes Rendell

COLTS NECK, N.J. (AP) - Donald Trump says Gov. Ed Rendell is doing a lousy job and letting his pals reap the rewards of Pennsylvania's emerging casino business.

"Pennsylvania is a little too political of a state for me,'' Trump said Wednesday at a news conference at his newly purchased $28 million golf course in New Jersey horse country. "It sounds like you have to be a friend of the governor to get a casino.''

In 2006, Trump lost out on the chance to build a casino on an old industrial site in Philadelphia's withering Nicetown section. State gambling regulators who selected the sites questioned whether visitors would show up and whether other businesses would invest in an economically depressed area with decaying infrastructure.

Instead, the state Gaming Control Board awarded licenses to two companies that planned to build slots parlors on the Delaware River waterfront.

One of the projects, the Foxwoods casino, ran into such stiff community opposition in South Philadelphia that Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter brokered a deal to move it downtown.

The proposed site change, announced last week and still in need of regulatory approval, has left Trump fuming, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Thursday.

"What the governor did is outrageous,'' Trump said. "He let a group of his political friends go to another site.''

He added, without elaboration: "I think he's doing a lousy job as governor.''

Trump himself could be considered a political friend of the Democratic governor. He gave Rendell campaign contributions totaling $32,000 between 2001 and 2003.

Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said the governor still considers Trump a friend.

"That should put to rest any insinuations that only friends were considered for gaming licenses,'' Ardo said.

The Foxwoods group is led by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians of Connecticut, but also includes four businessmen who have given Rendell a combined $81,000 in campaign contributions since 1991, according to the Daily News.

Ardo said Trump's criticisms "obviously indicate a level of frustration that doesn't necessarily reflect the reality that Rendell has been a popular and successful governor.''

Trump, meanwhile, is still planning to build his own Delaware River waterfront project - a luxury condo tower. Rendell helped clear the way for Trump Tower Philadelphia earlier this year by ending a two-year moratorium on some riverfront construction projects.

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