A group of African American leaders pressed Wednesday for the City Council to hold a hearing fully devoted to investigating allegations of racist practices that have been leveled against Cordish Companies, the group developing the Live! Philadelphia casino in South Philly.
"We're not going to open the door to somebody who's going to come in and take advantage of our community," said the Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church.
"I am not accusing Cordish of anything. I'm saying there are plenty of people who have accused them ... There's enough allegations here that to do due diligence, we need to hear from both sides to make a decision about what's in the best interest of Philadelphia," he said.
Cordish emerged as the winning bidder for the prized second casino license in Philadelphia in 2014.
The company has been dogged by allegations of racist conduct at other casinos it developed in Kentucky and Missouri.
These practices allegedly ranged from hiring a white man known as a "rabbit" to start arguments with black customers to get them ejected, to instituting dress codes banning sagging pants and very long shirts, purportedly to bar minority guests.
"I grew up black in America so these allegations are not new to me," Tyler said.
Cordish COO Zed Smith previously released a statement calling the allegations "false and malicious."
The allegations "are being spread by special interests for their own selfish gain, and have been widely discredited by the courts and leading civil rights organizations, including the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and NAACP Chapters throughout the U.S."
The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Action Network investigated the claims and is offering to fly witnesses to the City Council.
"I take the allegations raised at today's press conference very seriously," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the district where the casino will sit, in a statement. "City Council will fully examine all community and stakeholder concerns at the upcoming hearing and prior to the passage of any authorizing legislation regarding the proposed casino."
A Rules Committee hearing on the casino is scheduled for Monday.