State’s First Mini-Casino Slated To Open Nov. 24 At Westmoreland Mall

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Pennsylvania’s first mini-casino will open in Westmoreland County two days before Thanksgiving, The Cordish Companies announced Monday.

The property branded as Live! Casino Pittsburgh is to open at Westmoreland Mall, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

About one-half to one-third the size of most of Pennsylvania’s 12 existing casinos, the two-story facility inhabiting a former Bon-Ton department store will have 750 slot machines, about 30 table games, a FanDuel-branded sportsbook, dining options, and entertainment.

Live! Pittsburgh will aim to draw customers from Westmoreland County and surrounding southwestern Pennsylvania areas who are reluctant to make drives to Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino or the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County, even if those larger casinos may have more options available.

Project is well ahead of four other satellite casinos

The Cordish Companies, based in Baltimore, is completing work on a larger Live! Philadelphia hotel-casino project that it hopes to open to the public in February.

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Under the option extended to the state’s casino operators by 2017 gaming expansion legislation, Cordish bid $40.1 million at a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board auction for the right to develop a mini-casino — also known as a “satellite” casino, or officially, a Category 4 casino.

Its operation along the busy Route 30 corridor in Hempfield Township will be the first of five mini-casinos to open. Two by Penn National Gaming are slated to be completed in York and Berks counties in the latter part of 2021. Work has yet to begin on two others planned by Parx Casino in Cumberland County and by private developer Ira Lubert in Centre County.

Cordish has stated the Westmoreland Mall project represents a $150 million investment that will provide 500 permanent jobs, with workers still being hired.

Casino’s COVID precautions will be similar to others

The mini-casino’s opening comes at a difficult time for the gaming industry, due to the health concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gaming board has casinos operating under rules such as 50% occupancy limits, with restrictions on the smoking and alcohol service that would normally be allowed on casino floors. All guests and employees are to wear masks or other face coverings as well.

The press release announcing next month’s opening included a reference to the Live! casino’s “Play It Safe plan, which focuses on masking, temperature checks, social distancing, and repeated cleaning of high-traffic areas, slots machines and table games equipment.”

According to the property’s general manager, Sean Sullivan, “We’ve gone through extraordinary measures to meet and exceed the state’s COVID-19 guidelines to ensure all of our guests have fun and feel safe.”

It is unclear as yet what impact the health and safety guidelines could have at the outset on some of the dining and entertainment options that have been touted for the mini-casino.

The property is to include a Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen + Bar and a two-level Sports & Social Steel City, which will contain the FanDuel Sportsbook operation while providing a full dining and beverage menu to accompany televised sports viewing. Non-casino games and live music are also among features that are intended for the site.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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