Sportsbook In A Shuttered Mall Department Store? Regulators To Hold Satellite Casino Hearings

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Early next month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will travel to two proposed host communities for Keystone State satellite casinos in order to obtain public input on the projects.

The smaller, satellite casinos were authorized under the far-reaching gambling expansion package passed in late 2017. Five of the available 10 satellite casino licenses were bid for, a process which has already generated $127 million for the state. After five bids early in the year, an April auction produced no additional bids.

The casinos, which can be equipped with up to 750 slot machines and 30-40 table games, will also contribute much needed tax revenue to the Commonwealth. The satellite facilities can offer sports betting, something which is currently confined to just one Pennsylvania casino.

The gambling dens, dubbed Category 4 casinos, were approved along with online gaming and sports betting. Everything was done in an effort to further develop the state’s gaming market. Through October, the Keystone State casino gaming market was about $2.7 billion for 2018, virtually unchanged in a year-over-year comparison.

Under state law, the PGCB must hold a hearing on satellite casinos within the local municipality in which it is proposed. Separate hearings (currently unscheduled) in Harrisburg, PA, the state capital, will be held so that representatives of the projects can provide oral testimony to regulators. The Harrisburg hearings are where regulators can ask questions directly to the operator, prior to the licensing decision. Ground can be broken on the projects upon regulatory approval.

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Mount Airy proposal

On Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. local time, the PGCB will hold a public hearing in the social room of the Big Beaver Borough Fire Station #14, which is located in Darlington. The purpose of the meeting is to collect testimony on the Category 4 application submitted by Mount Airy #1, LLC.

Local officials, community groups and any resident with thoughts on the casino are all encouraged by the state to participate.

Mount Airy secured its bid of $21,188,888 for the Category 4 casino in an early February auction.

The company is seeking to build its satellite casino, to be equipped with 750 slots and 30 tables, in the borough of Big Beaver, which sits northwest of Pittsburgh. Mount Airy’s main casino, the Mount Airy Casino Resort, is located at the other end of the state in Mt. Pocono.

Mount Airy is looking to capitalize on convenience by eyeing a site near the intersection of the PA Turnpike and the Beaver Valley Expressway. The satellite casino project will also include a hotel and convention center. The company submitted a 434-page application to the PGCB. The application didn’t mention sports betting at the proposed satellite casino.

Stadium Casino proposal

On Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m., the PGCB will hold a hearing in the Hempfield Township Municipal Building in Greensburg to collect testimony on the application from Stadium Casino, LLC.

Stadium made a winning bid of $40,100,005 for its Category 4 casino in late January. Stadium is also working toward a full-fledged casino in Philadelphia. The current plan is to open the $700 million casino in South Philly in 2020. However, that project has experienced setbacks over the past handful of years.

Stadium was able to bid for the Category 4 license because it has a Category 2 license for the Philly casino. Developers are eyeing a satellite facility slightly southeast of Pittsburgh at the Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield Township, located along Route 30.

Stadium submitted a relatively slimmer 162-page application to Pennsylvania regulators. It’s not currently clear how many machines and tables Stadium is planning for the Westmoreland Mall casino, which would be fitted into a space formerly occupied by a Bon-Ton department store.

The company said in its application that it plans to have sports betting at the satellite casino. It obviously will have sports betting at the Philadelphia property as well. In the application, Stadium redacted how much revenue it projects from sports wagering.

Other bids

The other three bids for satellite casinos were from Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC (Penn National) for both Springettsbury Township and Caernarvon Township, as well as Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc. (Parx Casino) in Shippensburg Township.

Because only five of the 10 satellite casinos where bid for, the PGCB can hold additional auctions in the future for “other qualified entities” to make plays for the remaining licenses.

Initially, the satellite casinos were reserved for the Category 2 (stand-alone casino) and Category 1 (racetrack) licensees. Regulators will be tasked with deciding if allowing casino operators not currently in the state to enter the market would be “in the best interests of the Commonwealth.”

Early this month, the PGCB held a public hearing for gathering testimony on Mountainview’s proposed Springettsbury Township facility. Regulators have yet to issue a license for it. That proposed mini-casino would come to the York Galleria Mall, and it too would be equipped with sports betting.

After the hearings for Mount Airy and Stadium, the state will hold two satellite casino hearings for the local municipalities (Caernarvon Township and Shippensburg Township) still to be scheduled.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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