On Monday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held its fifth public input hearing for proposed satellite brick-and-mortar casinos authorized under 2017’s gambling expansion package.
The meeting in Shippensburg, located about 30 miles north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border and about 40 miles southwest of Harrisburg, was held to gather community feedback on the project from Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, parent company of the Philadelphia-area Parx Casino. The company’s satellite casino in Shippensburg will sit about 150 miles west of Parx. State law mandated the so-called mini-casinos be spread throughout the commonwealth in order to minimize cannibalization.
Greenwood pitched the project to the local community while the PGCB also considers its request for a five-year renewal of its primary casino license. That hearing was held Feb. 28 in Bensalem, home to Parx. Greenwood has yet to break ground on the Shippensburg facility.
Prior to Monday’s satellite casino hearing, the most recent meeting of that kind for the PGCB was held on March 4 for a Penn National Gaming mini-casino in Morgantown, about 50 miles outside Philadelphia.
What is a satellite casino?
Under Pennsylvania law, the satellite casinos (known as Category 4 properties) are allowed to have 30-40 tables and 750 slot machines, as well as sports betting. Pennsylvania’s heavily-taxed sports betting has been sluggish, but the market is still in its infancy. There’s also no mobile sports betting yet, but that is expected to begin around mid-year. Greenwood kicked off retail sports wagering in January.
For comparison, Parx has more than 3,500 slots and more than 130 table games, in addition to a poker room. The satellite casinos are allowed to have poker rooms, but operators have so far shown little interest in more poker tables in the state. The Pennsylvania live poker market has been flat for years.
Five of the 10 satellite licenses available under the 2017 law were bid for. The Keystone State generated $127 mm as a result of the competitive bidding process.
Details of Shippensburg project
— Brian (@brianpempus) March 25, 2019
In February 2018, Greenwood effectively reserved the fourth satellite casino license, at the time slated for somewhere in South Newton Township. Parx was fortunate here, as the rival Sands Bethlehem Casino was the original winner of the fourth auction for a satellite casino property. However, Sands had its winning bid invalidated thanks to it being in too close proximity to a proposed satellite casino from Mount Airy.
Sands was willing to pay $9.9 mm for that mini-casino, but Greenwood walked away with it for $8.11 mm. Months later, Greenwood released some details of the project, indicating that it would build on a 10-acre site just off Interstate 81 (Exit 29). The location of the property is considered ideal for maximizing visitation (Shippensburg is a college town) and also reducing the traffic impact on Shippensburg.
Greenwood is hoping to capture gambling and entertainment dollars from white-collar workers in the area.
“The southern I-81 corridor, from Harrisburg to Greencastle, is one of the nation’s most prominent distribution locations,” Greenwood wrote in its 150-page application. “The corridor is home to a number of Fortune 500 and logistics companies, who have chosen the location because of the region’s proximity to the major metropolitan areas of the East Coast.”
Greenwood eyes a 2020 opening, like other satellite casino projects sprinkled around the state.
The Shippensburg facility will have about 475 slots and 40 electronic table positions, the casino told regulators on Monday. It’s expected that the casino will generate around $45 mm in annual gross gaming revenue. For comparison, Parx Casino generated $602.7 mm in gaming revenue last year.
The casino will employ several hundred people, according to the company.
Additionally, the casino will be about 65,000 square feet and will have about 500 parking spaces.
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