While Pennsylvanian lawmakers firmly believe that the expansion of gambling will allow the state to get over at least part of its financial woes, many municipalities have taken a firm stand against what they consider a threat to their own regions. Harrisburg has given Penn municipalities until the end of the year to opt out of any future satellite casinos to be built in their region, but close to 90 townships and boroughs have wasted no time and have already opted out.
The new gambling expansion laws allow the construction of up to 10 smaller gambling facilities, in addition to the 10 existing land-based casinos. Each of these satellite casinos will be allowed to offer anything between 300 and 750 slot machines, and up to 40 table games. The state will charge $7.5 million for license fees, and a further $2.5 million fee if table games are also offered.
Existing casinos will have first rights to build these satellite casinos which cannot be within a 25 mile radius of other land casinos unless the existing casino actually wants it to be.
During the course of next year, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will start accepting bids from the ten casinos regarding potential satellite casinos. None of these casinos, until now, have openly expressed any enthusiasm for an expansion of their operations, although they may simply be keeping quiet in order to see what the competition is planning.
Even if casino operators are keen to build a Category 4 satellite casino, they are still faced with the obstacle of finding a municipality to host the site. With the list of townships and boroughs opting out of the idea, it may be a real struggle to bring everything in line.
Perhaps a little embarrassingly for Governor Tom Wolf, who signed the gambling expansion package into law last month, his own hometown, Mount Wolf Borough also opted out and has filed a resolution that prohibits a satellite casino to be built within its limits.
Despite its reputation as a ‘swing state’, the majority of Pennsylvania’s boroughs are conservative. The area around Lancaster County, rich in Amish, could be a potentially good one to host a satellite casino due to the thousands of visitors to the region each year. However, Lancaster County has already opted out. Other potential sites are Gettysburg, State College, Altoona, Williamsport, Reading, and York.