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Q and A: How a mini-casino could impact your York County town

Written by Ed Mahon/The York Daily Record | Jan 12, 2018 5:12 PM
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(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This week, Penn National Gaming won the right to build a mini-casino in the York area. Here's what you need to know.

So is a mini-casino coming to my town?

Our map shows you where it can and cannot go. 

More than half the municipalities in York County opted out of having a mini-casino.

On the southern end, Shrewsbury and Hopewell townships are both easily accessible from Interstate 83 exits. Both townships border Maryland. Neither opted out of having a mini-casino.

York city and West York didn't opt out. Neither did West Manchester, Manchester and East Manchester townships. All of those municipalities are centrally located in the county and in close proximity to Interstate 83 and Route 30.

If gambling comes to my town, what's the downside?

Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA Corp., a publishing company, said the first thing people get concerned about is traffic.  

But he thinks that's an "overblown" concern. The opening week there will be heavy traffic, he said. But in general people come to casinos at all different times.

So, if your town never really had much traffic before, the casino isn't going to be a problem. And if you have spots that are congested, at certain times, such as Friday nights, they'll be a little more congested, he said.

He said that since casinos bring more people that typically leads to more crime. But Woinski thinks the positives of a casino far outweigh the negatives.

So what are the positives?

Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, hopes a mini-casino brings other attractions, such as restaurants and retail stores.

And there will be tax income, too, specifically targeted for the municipality that hosts the mini-casino and the county.

For gross slot machine revenue, the law includes a 4 percent tax with half of that going to grants for the host county and half to the host municipality.

For gross table games revenue, the law includes a 2 percent tax with half of that going to grants for the host county and half to the host municipality. 

More than half of the municipalities in York County told the state they don't want a casino. That includes Springettsbury and Hellam townships, which host a long stretch of Route 30.

But people can change their minds. Or there might be new people in office since a municipality first said no.

Municipalities can rescind their prohibition at any time, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. They just need to provide a new resolution.

But, if a municipality puts themselves on the mini-casino list, then asks to be taken off that list, they don't get any more mulligans. They can't again ask to be put on the no mini-casino list.

Where can I gamble in the meantime?

If you want to go south, Maryland has options. 

That includes: Horseshoe Baltimore Maryland Casino, which is about 60 miles south of York city. That casino has more than 2,200 slots and 153 table games, including blackjack, roulette and various types of poker, according to its website.

If you want to stay in Pennsylvania, there are 12 casinos to choose from. Most are on the eastern side of the state or in the Pittsburgh area.

With the news that York County was approved for a mini-casino - and with much of southern York County legally open to the idea - what do residents of the area think? Anthony J. Machcinski, York Daily Record

But your current southcentral Pennsylvania option is Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Dauphin County. Table games there include blackjack, roulette and various kinds of poker. It also has slots and live horse racing. 

There are other kinds of gambling, too, such as small games of chance, offered by nonprofit organizations and taverns. And the new gambling law expanded gambling options across Pennsylvania, including with instant online lottery games.

And York County has an off-track wagering location at the Manchester Crossroads shopping center off of Route 30.

What is a mini-casino anyway?

A mini-casino -- known as a Category 4 casino -- can operate between 300 and 750 slot machines and eventually up to 40 table games, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. For comparison, existing Category 3 casinos can have up to 600 slot machines and 50 table games.

A mini-casino isn't going to turn any parts of York County into the Las Vegas Strip. In 2013, a New Jersey newspaper compared casinos in Pennsylvania to Walmart: Not super flashy, but convenient.

York County could be home to Pennsylvania's first "mini-casino" - a new classification of casino that lawmakers hope will generate $200 million annually in tax revenue. Chris Dunn, York Daily Record

Where will other mini-casinos go?

The new law authorized up to 10 mini-casinos. Some areas are off limits, because they are too close to existing casinos.

Every municipality in Lancaster County opted out of hosting a mini-casino, according to WITF. Many in Adams County did, too.

Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA Corp, a publishing company, expects one to go in Lawrence County, which is on the Ohio border of Pennsylvania.

It's still an open question whether there will be 10 good locations in the state for mini-casinos, he said.

Could Penn National decide not to build a mini-casino in York County?

The business is hedging its bets.

Ahead of Wednesday's auction, Penn National Gaming filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that allowing 10 mini-casinos would cause significant and unique harm to its casino outside Harrisburg.

The Associated Press reported that two other lawsuits were filed ahead of Wednesday's auction, challenging other aspects of the law.

Penn National Gaming has six months to submit a detailed plan for the York area, unless the states approves an extension.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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