Chambersburg council limits casino sites to I-81 corridor

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Feb 28, 2018 7:28 AM

FILE PHOTO: People gamble at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino in Wilkes-Barre. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(Chambersburg) -- Chambersburg has set rules for a mini casino, should a developer propose putting one in the borough.

Zoning rules adopted by Chambersburg Borough Council on Monday establishes two general areas, both just off Interstate 81 -- near Exit 17 (Walker Road) and near Exit 14 (Wayne Avenue). Commercial development, including restaurants and motels, is clustered around the interchanges.

"Those are the two best locations if we were to receive one," Council President Heath Talhelm said.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board so far has awarded four of a possible 10 gaming licenses for mini casinos, known as Category 4 casinos. A mini casino is permitted to operate 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games initially.

What are the chances for a Chambersburg mini casino?

"I would say 'slim,'" Talhelm said, "considering Cumberland County just received a license."

The gaming board last week awarded a license to Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc. Greenwood proposes opening a mini casino within a 15-mile radius of a point in South Newton Township. Chambersburg is located just outside the circle.

Shippensburg Township appears to be the likely location for a Greenwood mini casino. The township allows the retail sale of alcohol. Supervisors did not ban mini casinos. Land in the township is undeveloped at the I-81 Exit 29 (Walnut Bottom Road).  Other municipalities in the circle either banned mini-casinos, are dry or are not located near I-81. Greenwood has six months to announce its site.

In December council deadlocked on whether to ban mini casinos from Chamberburg. Mayor Walter Bietsch, interim mayor at the time, broke a 5-5 tie by welcoming what he said was an economic opportunity. Tax revenue from a mini-casino could support the borough police or help pay for the aquatics center, he said.

"I didn't support a casino," Talhelm said. "This (zoning rule) was done as a protection for our residents. Without this, they (developers) could pretty much put it anywhere. You can't put it downtown. These places make sense."

Talhelm said no one has contacted him about locating a mini casino in Chambersburg.

The borough's zoning rule restricts the location of a mini casino to:

  • A maximum of 1,000 feet from I-81.
  • A minimum of 500 feet from any home, school or church.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

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