After spending more than $600,000 on ads promoting his lieutenant governor campaign, State Senator Mike Stack has made gains in the polls and is now in a statistical tie for first place. But should Stack make it into the #2 slot on the ticket, there’s a chance his long history of questionable land deals with casinos could distract attention from the top-of-the-ticket candidate.
Over the span of the last decade, the Philadelphia Daily News and other news organizations have detailed the circumstances surrounding Stack’s financial interest in land sought by casino developers.
It all started in 2003 when the General Assembly voted to sell water rights to 22 acres of land worth $1.5 million dollars to the Beach Street Corp. for only $100,000, citing environmental contamination as the reason for the low price.
Stack and his four siblings together owned 20% of Beach Street Corp., which was one of two companies that owned a 46 acre riverfront tract alongside the 22 acres of water rights.
Stack’s father Michael Stack Jr., who was the 58th Democratic Ward Leader owned another 20% of Beach Street Corp., but he gave that stock to his wife because he was facing felony forgery and conspiracy charges.
In 2004, Beach Street Corp. optioned the land to Las Vegas-based Ameristar Casinos for a reported $37 million, part of an effort to assemble a 46-acre tract for a casino. This drew the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Harrisburg, which in turn led to Ameristar reworking the option to cut out the Stack-owned land.
As a result of Stack’s dealings, Governor Ed Rendell instituted a new policy halting real estate investors from buying state land on the cheap and then turning around and selling it for to gaming corporations for a massive profit.
But that’s not the end of the story—it happened again just last year when developer Steve Wynn was applying for a license to build a separate casino.
Wynn told the Daily News in June of 2013 that “if a state senator is a beneficiary, then he’s a lucky guy. They could end up with $20 million-$30 million,” Wynn said. “Wow.”
Now imagine if the deal goes through this summer with Stack in the lieutenant governor slot of the ticket. Just when Pennsylvania Democrats need attention focused on Governor Corbett, the attention could turn to Mike Stack.
That’s a dangerous gamble.