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Franklin County municipalities open door to mini-casino

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Feb 5, 2018 6:34 PM

A security guard looks on as a few people stand near slot machines at the Trump Taj Mahal, early Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Atlantic City. (Photo: Mel Evans, AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Six municipalities In Franklin County are among hundreds in Pennsylvania where a mini-casino could be located.

Pennsylvania State Gaming Board on Tuesday holds its third of 10 auctions for mini-casino licenses. Auctions are being held every two weeks.

A mini-casino can have 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games. It's about a tenth the size of a large casino, which can have 5,000 slots and 250 table games. The state has 10 large casinos, such as Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg.

So far, two mini-casinos are in the works:

  • Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association LLC submitted a winning bid of $50.1 million on Jan. 10. The company proposed a mini-casino in the York area - within a 15-mile radius of Yoe, York County. Mountainview Thoroughbred operates Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course near Grantville.
  • Stadium Casino LLC bid a winning $40.1 million on Jan. 24. Its mini-casino would be developed near Pittsburgh,  within a 15-mile radius of a point in Derry Township, Westmoreland County. The national gaming partnership is developing a $600 million casino near Philadelphia.

A bid winner has six months from winning to identify the exact site and detail its plans.

The state law establishing mini-casinos gave municipalities until Dec. 31 to opt out of hosting a mini-casino. More than 1,000 municipalities declined to host a mini-casino. Pennsylvania has more than 2,500 municipalities.

Six municipalities in Franklin County - Chambersburg, Orrstown and the townships of Greene, Washington, St. Thomas and Lurgan - did not opt out of the chance to host a mini-casino.

A mini-casino offers fees of up to $1.6 million a year to a host municipality, and a like amount for a host county, based on current receipts for slots and games in Pennsylvania.  

The potential economic benefits and jobs appealed to Washington Township supervisors, but the township faces long odds, according to township Manager Jeff Geesaman.

"We did not opt out," he said. "I think we would strongly consider allowing one into the township if we were approached. I don't think we'll be approached."

Washington Township is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Hollywood Casino and the mini-casino planned near York. The township is near Maryland, but is not located on Interstate 81.

"I have no idea of how likely we are of hosting a Category 4 casino," said Jeffrey Stonehill, borough manager of Chambersburg. "On Monday, Feb. 12, council will discuss the proposed zoning changes."

The minutes of Greene Township supervisors' meetings do not record any discussion of the casino option. Supervisor Todd Burnes did not respond to a telephone message on Monday.

Even without a mini-casino, slot machines could come to Franklin County,

The law that established the mini-casinos also allows up to five slot machines at qualifying truck stops.

The Gaming Board recently made applications available for truck stop owners.

"It will be a few months before things start to happen," said board spokesman Richard McGarvey.

A county already hosting a casino could opt out of the truck-stop slots. Ten, including Dauphin County, did so.

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

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