State licensing approvals were granted Wednesday for Parx Casino to develop Pennsylvania’s fourth mini-casino and for PointsBet to become the state’s 14th online sportsbook and 18th iCasino.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board granted the licenses at its monthly meeting as part of the continuing expansion of the state’s gaming industry that was spurred by broad 2017 legislation.
The state is now slated to have five mini-casinos, which are allowed up to 750 slot machines. Three are already open, and officials representing Parx said that the next could be open as soon as November in a former Lowe’s home supply store in Shippensburg, Cumberland County.
The state’s sports betting industry raised $321 million in taxable revenue and the iCasinos more than $1 billion in the first 11 months of 2021, and PointsBet is preparing to join its predecessors and supplement those numbers. It has not announced an official launch date, but it presumably will start in the coming weeks prior to the Feb. 13 Super Bowl, which is the biggest single sports betting event of the year.
Parx started with $8.1M bid four years ago
Fulfillment of plans for the Shippensburg mini-casino by Parx and its parent firm, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, has been a lengthy process since its successful bid of $8.1 million in February 2018 for the rights to operate a facility in that part of the state.
An initial location off of Interstate 81 in Shippensburg Township was abandoned due to excavation problems, and the company settled last year on the new site about a mile away, where Lowe’s closed several years ago. A public hearing was held last May 20 where Cumberland County residents offered a mix of views, including criticism that a casino would harm the community’s “Hallmark movie” atmosphere.
Another hearing for only the company to present its case was held Wednesday prior to the board’s licensing vote. Parx officials said they would use just half of the Lowe’s space for placement of 500 slot machines, electronic table games, a restaurant, and sportsbook kiosks. The other half of the property will be redeveloped in the future for a purpose still to be determined, officials said.
They said they will make use of up to 500 parking spaces on the property and do not expect to have a negative impact on traffic or public infrastructure or services in the area, while providing 100 full-time jobs and another 100 that are part-time or seasonal.
John Dixon, chief operating officer for Greenwood Gaming, said the venue would have no indoor smoking, just like the anchor Parx property located 150 miles away in Bucks County. Parx has made that decision voluntarily, going against the grain of other Pennsylvania casinos that permit smoking on up to half the gaming floor, as permitted by law.
“We found our customers actually prefer a non-smoking environment, so we plan to do the same thing in Shippensburg,” Dixon told the gaming board.
Asked when the facility would open, he said, “We are hoping to start construction next month, and we would open by sometime in November. It’s about a nine- or 10-month project.”
PointsBet has been pending since March
PointsBet has also had an unusually long delay in commencing since first announcing last March that it would be operating in Pennsylvania through a partnership agreement with Penn National Gaming, tied to that company’s Hollywood Casino York mini-casino.
Online operators such as PointsBet must be tethered to a brick-and-mortar casino operator in the state. Hollywood Casino York was itself approved Wednesday for the $10 million interactive sports betting license that will enable PointsBet to conduct business.
PointsBet, like most online operators, will have a shared sportsbook and casino platform enabling customers to easily switch between the two. Though sports betting tends to capture more public attention, the iCasinos typically claim far more revenue.
PointsBet is already live for sports betting in eight states — New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, West Virginia, and Virginia — although it does not attract as much betting volume as better-known, more widely advertised operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM.
At the same time it is preparing to enter Pennsylvania, PointsBet is about to do the same in the even bigger, newly created New York sports betting market, although it will not be able to offer its online casino product there. Pennsylvania is one of the few states to legalize iCasino play along with online sports betting.
PointsBet did not offer any public comment Wednesday on its plans for launch in Pennsylvania.