Gambling-oriented residents of the Shippensburg area of south-central Pennsylvania have been waiting a long time for a mini-casino to open near them, and they will have to be patient a little longer.
Parx Casino in Bucks County, which will operate the mini-casino in Cumberland County as a smaller, satellite facility some 150 miles away, has announced on its Facebook page that the new venue will open in February. It previously was to open late this year, then had the timetable pushed back to January.
No specific date was identified for the opening, but whenever it is in February, it will be about four years from when Parx’s parent firm, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., presented a winning bid of $8.1. million at a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board auction for the rights to develop the mini-casino.
The mini-casinos, with up to 750 slot machines and 30 to 40 table games, were authorized in wide-ranging 2017 legislation which also allowed for sports betting and online casinos in the state. The idea was that the smaller casinos would both raise money for the state through an auction process — with more than $120 million eventually paid — and make casino gambling more accessible for people who don’t live in the state’s metropolitan areas, where original casinos were clustered.
While the possibility for 10 mini-casinos was specified in the legislation, the state is now to have five: the three that previously opened as Live! Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, Hollywood Casino York, and Hollywood Casino Morgantown; the Parx facility in Shippensburg Township; and a prospective one in the State College area that still awaits completion of the licensing process for businessman Ira Lubert’s application.
Former Lowe’s converted to gambling hall
After an original delay due to problems with their first preferred site in Cumberland County, Parx officials have settled on placing the mini-casino in half the space of a former Lowe’s store near an Interstate 81 interchange, close to Shippensburg University. Some residents of the area who showed up at a May 2021 public hearing on the project panned the location as out of character with the surrounding community’s quiet atmosphere, but the gaming board found no basis to withhold a license.
Parx is in the process of hiring and training employees to handle the slot machines, table games, sports betting, food and beverage operations, and other aspects that go into every casino’s operations, such as security and surveillance.
On its website, Parx states: “The 73,000 square foot casino will include approximately 500 slot machines and 48 electronic table positions along with a first-class 100 seat restaurant and sports bar and wide selection of beers. … The casino will also feature sports wagering kiosks to bet on your favorite college and professional sporting events.”
The biggest revenue generator among the state’s 16 existing casinos, Parx takes in more than $600 million in gaming revenue annually, while a successful Category 4 casino — as the mini-casinos are formally known — would be lucky to claim one-fifth that amount, based on their early results. Parx has nearly 3,000 slot machines.