All but two of Pennsylvania’s mini-casinos are now operating. One of those two is set to open its doors in a matter of weeks. The other may never do so, depending on the outcome of ongoing litigation.
Parx Casino Shippensburg recently announced an opening date of February 3 at 250 South Conestoga Drive. Shippensburg is in the south-central part of the state, which doesn’t currently have any other casinos. The closest other gaming establishments are two Hollywood Casino properties – the original at Penn National Racecourse, and the new satellite location in York. Each is about an hour’s drive away.
Pennsylvania’s New Mini-Casinos
Class 4 casinos, also known as mini-casinos or satellite casinos, became possible thanks to the same 2017 omnibus gaming expansion bill that authorized online casinos in Pennsylvania and video gaming terminals at truck stops. A separate bill the same year legalized sports betting in the state.
Despite the name, mini-casinos aren’t that small. They do have more restrictions than other types of gaming property, but Parx Shippensburg will have a 73,000 square foot gaming floor, 500 slot machines, and electronic table games. There will also be a restaurant and sports bar capable of seating 100 patrons.
Access to such a significant entertainment option will be welcome to many local residents. On the other hand, any new gambling options have a risk associated with them. Pennsylvania is facing a surge in self-exclusions and problem gambling helpline calls. Representatives of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) told Bonus that they believe this is, in part, a natural but temporary consequence of bringing new gambling options to areas that previously had few.
The PGCB approved five mini-casinos in total. Here are the three that are already operating:
- Live! Casino Pittsburgh
- Hollywood York
- Hollywood Morgantown
Fifth Mini-Casino Still in Legal Limbo
Once Parx Shippensburg opens, there will only be one more casino left to come. That’s if it comes at all.
The as-yet-unnamed project is slated to be built in State College, inside the presently under-used Nittany Mall. It would be even further from existing properties than Parx Shippensburg and by far the closest option for anyone in the sparsely-populated northern part of the state.
Before construction can begin, however, questions around its legality need resolution.
Initially, bidding on satellite casinos was only open to the owners of existing casinos in the state. However, after interest in those licenses proved lower than expected, the PGCB opened bids a second time with expanded eligibility. For the second round, individuals could bid, provided they were investors in at least one of the state’s existing casinos.
Cordish Companies, which owns and operates the Live! casinos in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia submitted a bid for the State College location. However, it lost to such an individual: Ira Lubert.
Cordish has been disputing Lubert’s eligibility ever since. The company claims that he was not actually bidding on his own, but rather doing so on behalf of Bally’s and its board of directors. Bally’s will have a role in running the casino with Lubert, but is not an in-state operator and would not have been able to place its own bid.
The PGCB reviewed its decision and decided that Lubert’s bid was valid, so Cordish has taken both parties to court. A decision may be some time in coming and will almost certainly result in an appeal either way. It may take years before we know whether the casino will be built and by whom, and an opening date would be even further off.