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Pennsylvania Moves Ahead With Mini-Casino Auctions

Regulators Hold Third Of 10 Auctions For New Facilities


A sweeping Pennsylvania gambling expansion package that legalized yet-to-be-launched online casinos is also paving the way for more brick-and-mortar gambling.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held its latest public “mini-casino” auction Wednesday morning in Harrisburg. Regulators were seeking another bidder for the third of 10 satellite casinos planned for the Keystone State. Pennsylvania already has a dozen Las Vegas-style casinos, and under the law the companies behind them are the ones eligible to bid for the smaller gambling dens.

The facilities are classified as “Category 4” casinos under the state law. They are allowed to have 300-750 slot machines and up to 30 table games for an additional fee. The mini-casinos can bring their table game counts to 40 after the first year of operation.

It doesn’t appear that any of the mini-casinos will have poker rooms. Only 10 of the state’s 12 full-fledged casinos have them, and the Keystone State poker market has about reached its limits in the absence of regulated online poker sites.

The Gaming Control Board plans to hold two auctions a month going forward until all the available Category 4 opportunities are claimed. Two winning bids were had from auctions last month.

On Wednesday, the operator of Mount Airy Casino Resort was the high bidder with a bid of $21.1 million for a satellite casino in the city of New Castle in Lawrence County.

Prior to that auction, Stadium Casino LLC, which is developing a new, full-fledged casino in Philadelphia, was a high bidder with a bid of $40.1 million for a mini-casino near Pittsburgh in Derry Township in Westmoreland County. The Stadium Casino group is a joint venture between the Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, LP which currently operates the Parx Casino near Philadelphia. Earlier in January, Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, which operates Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, was the high bidder with a bid of $50.1 million for a facility in the Borough of Yoe in York County.

Those who win bids are required to pay the bid price to state within two business days. They then have up to six months to submit an application for the Category 4 casino, which will contain project plans including the precise site of the facility.

A mini-casino cannot be built within 25 miles of an existing full-service casino (unless both are owned by the same company), as shown in the map below, courtesy of the Gaming Control Board. Additionally, hundreds of counties across the state (around 40 percent) have opted out of being eligible for a mini-casino, as shown by the areas shaded in blue.

Map is courtesy of the Pennsylvania GCB.