In an effort to raise additional revenue, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) recently announced plans to auction off a Category 4 casino license. Industry trade journals reported that the auction for the mini-casino license would take place on Sept. 2.
Pennsylvania has gone down this road before with no takers. The original legislation creating the opportunity to run a smaller-scale casino was passed in 2017. To date, no mini-casino has yet to open its doors in the Keystone State but online operators such as SugarHouse, BetAmerica, and Parx Casino are very successful in the state.
The gaming parameters of a Category 4 casino license would allow up to 750 slot machines and 40 gaming tables. The PGCB held an auction for a mini-casino license last September. However, it failed to attract any bids at an opening price of $7.5 million. There was a sunset provision in the law the basically ended the option for any further auctions.
Things have obviously changed in light of the current situation. All PA. land-based casinos were forced to close in mid-March while Pennsylvania online casinos and PA sports betting kept operating. Over the course of June and into early July, they are back up and running. Yet, severe damage to the state’s tax coffers due to lost revenue has taken its toll.
It was also mentioned that one application for a mini-casino license was denied last November. Mount Airy Pittsburgh was looking to open Big Beaver but the plan was shot down by state regulators. They cited a lack of proper financing.
However, a local news source site, BeaverCountain.com linked the denial to an investigation into former Mount Airy owner Louis DeNaples. He was barred from an ownership interest in Mount Airy due to perjury charges. This stemmed from his alleged ties to the Bufalino mob family, which is now defunct.
None the less, the PGCB is pressing on with its mini-casino auction plans. Turning to gaming revenue as a quick fix, lawmakers added a provision for another auction at the height of the shutdown in May. The decision to hold this September’s auction was made at June’s monthly meeting.
This will actually be the third attempt to auction off a mini-casino license. The first two failed to produce any interested bidders at the state’s asking price. It remains to be seen if the third time will be the charm. Meanwhile, online casinos like Unibet, BetRivers and Hollywood Casino are on the rise.
The auction is only open to PA. licensed slot establishments or their licensed principles. The added ‘licensed principles’ is new to this third attempt. Full details on eligibility requirements will be posted on the official PGCB website.
There is a 40-mile buffer requirement from existing gaming locations. This rule takes quite a bit of the state’s viable locations out of play. Rural northern PA and border areas with Ohio (north of Pittsburgh) are two possible areas. Smaller cities such as Altoona and Williamsport have been identified as potential locations.
The original 2017 gambling extension bill allowed up to 10 mini-casino licenses. Stadium Casino, LLC is in the process of building a Category 2 satellite casino in Westmoreland County, east of Pittsburgh. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course suspended work at two satellite locations due to the current situation. One is in York County and the other is in Berks County.