Pennsylvania Mini-Casinos Capped At Five

Legislation allowed up to 10 mini-casinos in PA, but after the first five licenses were granted, interest in paying the $7.5 mm fee subsided.

There will be no more mini-casinos in Pennsylvania than the five already planned.

A yellow box to receive submission of any new bids — at a minimum price of $7.5 million — sat untouched at Wednesday morning’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting. It prompted gaming board officials to cancel a second auction that had been scheduled for Sept. 18 and announce that the auction process for this unique aspect of Pennsylvania’s broad gaming expansion had concluded.

Only halfway to the max

Legislation approved in 2017 to boost the state’s budget included a provision allowing up to 10 mini-casinos — also known formally as Category 4 casinos and informally as satellite casinos — around the state. Existing casino operators had the right to submit the minimum $7.5 million bids to develop facilities with up to 750 slot machines and potentially 40 table games.

In early 2018, the state netted $127 million from five mini-casino auctions. The gaming board stopped the auction process after no operator submitted a bid when given the sixth such chance that April.

In a last-gasp effort to raise additional revenue, a provision inserted in June in the state’s 2019-20 budget legislation included a provision mandating at least one additional auction by the board. Most of the state’s population centers already have either an existing casino or planned mini-casino within easy driving distance, however, and a stipulation provided that no mini-casino could be within 40 miles of another facility.

The requirements left central and northern Pennsylvania areas around Altoona, State College, and Williamsport the most likely locations for any new development, if an operator determined it was worth a $7.5 million bid and additional investment. None deemed it worthwhile.

That leaves Pennsylvania with five mini-casinos, planned in York and Berks counties by Penn National Gaming/Hollywood Casino; in Westmoreland County by Stadium Casino; in Beaver County by Mount Airy Casino; and in Cumberland County by Greenwood Gaming/Parx Casino.

None of those satellites is expected to open before late 2020. The gaming board has granted final licensing approval to Hollywood Casino Morgantown in Berks County and Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, while the other three are still awaiting that final action.

The new facilities will be about one one-third to one-fourth the size of Pennsylvania’s main casinos and will have fewer amenities, though they will have some dining and bar areas and, possibly, sportsbooks and entertainment centers.

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