According to a report issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released on Thursday evening, over 600 Pennsylvania municipalities have opted out as a possible location for proposed Pennsylvania mini casinos.
The number represents roughly 25% of the 2,500 municipalities located in Pennsylvania. Communities have until December 31st to declare their intentions of opting out of being the location of a mini casino (also referred to as satellite casinos or Category 4 casinos).
Up to 10 mini-casinos licenses will be auctioned off next year as part of the October online gambling expansion.
In or out?
Of the 600 cities, towns and boroughs that have opted out thus far, Lancaster County has had the most municipalities reject the new casinos followed by Chester County not too far behind.
Even with the large number of opt-outs, many of the towns that have rejected mini casinos are likely not a good fit for these satellite casinos given their location in remote and rural areas or their proximity to other casinos.
Pennsylvania’s fifth largest city, Reading is one of the interested cities bucking the trend and has expressed their interest in hosting a casino. The county seat of Berks County, has a population of over 87,000 and would appear to be an ideal site, given its size and distance from existing casinos. Ridgeway, Altoona, York and Williamsport are some of the other potential towns that could be seen as possible sites for PA casinos.
Despite the fact that towns have until January 1st to opt out of hosting a mini-casinos, towns can change their minds at a future date. Due to this fact, some are undoubtedly opting out temporarily to allow for more time to deliberate.
While the extra revenue is appealing to many communities some are weighing positives against negatives such as society and morality concerns.
The bidding process
The mini casino process starts with bidding between the state’s 12 existing casinos. The bidding will begin on January 10th with auction prices starting at $7.5 million. The winning bid will get their choice of location on a town that has not opted out.
Additional rounds of bidding could potentially continue through July 31st.
The so-called mini casinos will allow up to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games. After a year, another 10 tables can be added with PGCB approval.
In addition to new recreational interest in the area, communities will be able to add 4% of gross gaming revenues to their coffers. Mini-casinos are expected to generate an additional $100 million in revenue each year.
As part of the legislation, a mini-casino can not be within 25 linear miles of an existing casino.
Who gets to bid?
The bidding will be limited to Pennsylvania’s 12 existing casinos with Category 1 and 2 casinos starting first. This means that larger Pennsylvania casinos will get the first opportunity to bid on the new Category 4 licenses.
Category 1 Casinos – (with race tracks)
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
Presque Isle Downs and Casino
Category 2 Casinos (stand along casinos)
Mount Airy Casino
Category 3 Casinos (resort casinos)
Lady Lucky Casino
Valley Forge Casino
Should an licenses remain after all casinos have had a chance to bid for a license, each PA casino will get an additional opportunity to bid, including those that have already received a Category 4 license.