PA Municipalities Weigh Pros and Cons of Hosting Satellite Casinos

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Pennsylvania’s recently passed gambling expansion package, signed into law by Gov. Wolf last month, not only legalizes online gambling, but also allows for the opening of up to 10 satellite casinos across the state. Built into the law is a provision which allows municipalities to opt out of the running for consideration, however, leaving them to weigh the pros and cons of doing so before a looming December 31 deadline.

Satellite casino specifics

HB 271 gives the state’s racetrack and freestanding casinos the option of bidding for one of 10 satellite casino licenses. The casinos will be allowed between 300 and 750 slot machines along with 30 table games each, and cannot be located within 25 miles of any other Commonwealth casino. License holders have the option of building their satellite venues closer than 25 miles to their own main casino if they wish, however.

Once specific areas of the state are chosen, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will accept bids for targeted areas covering 15 miles of land. The winning bidders will then be given six months to choose the exact location in which they will build their casino.

Who is out?

As of this week, 137 of the state’s 2,560 municipalities have notified the Gaming Control Board that they will not host satellite casinos. Jeffrey E. Gorrin, chairman of the Pike Township supervisors, explained that his municipality would be one of those taking itself out of consideration. “It’s not a place for casinos, whether satellite or otherwise,” he told the Reading Eagle.

Others have yet to make a decision and are focused on the potential benefits the arrangement could bring their areas. The law calls for satellite casinos to pay their host municipalities a local share tax, which cannot exceed 50% of the municipality’s budget.

Those who have already decided against the move will still have a chance to opt back in if they have a change of heart. Once a municipality has decided to allow satellite casinos, however, they will not be able to ban them again.

Who else is opposed?

Opposition groups like the Pennsylvania Family Council (PFC) are taking the opportunity to try and convince municipalities that allowing satellite casinos is against their best interests. The organization has sent out thousands of notifications to government officials urging them to pass on the option. On its blog, PFC applauded the municipalities which have already opted out. It also took a shot at lawmakers, implying that the lengthy gambling bill allowing such casinos was passed with very little debate, in just “24 hours.”

Penn National eyes a lawsuit

Penn National Gaming, which runs the Hollywood Casino in Grantville, is also potentially opposed, and is even considering a lawsuit to stop competitors from setting up shop close to its property.

In the meantime, Penn National’s lawyers, like many officials across the state, are waiting for more information on the specifics of how satellite casinos will actually work before the deadline arrives next month. The PGCB hopes to provide more clarity on December 7 during an informational session which should help the state’s various municipalities make their decision.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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