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No bribe for allowing mini-casino in Springettsbury Township

Written by Teresa Boeckel/The York Daily Record | Sep 14, 2018 9:28 AM
gambling_hollywood_casino.jpg

A view of the table games at Hollywood Casino. (Photo: Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)

Springettsbury Township supervisor Mark Swomley made it clear Thursday night: There was no wrongdoing in allowing a mini-casino to move into the municipality.

The allegation of wrongdoing came in an email from a citizen, who is unhappy about a mini-casino possibly moving into the York Galleria, Swomley said during a regular township meeting Thursday. He did not name the person.

Penn National Gaming Inc. filed its formal application on Wednesday with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to open the venue in the former Sears store at the mall.

"This person was accusing the board of supervisors of taking a bribe from Penn National to change our position on allowing the casino to come into this community," he said.

Swomley, who is chairman of the board, said he wants everyone to understand why elected officials did not vote for a casino in the beginning. At that point, the township did not have a definition of gaming facilities in its zoning ordinance, and it did not have control over where a casino could locate in the community.

Township officials put plans in motion to address those issues, and then the board reversed its decision -- "not because we wanted to reverse our position but because we wanted to protect the township for where gaming could go in the community," he said. "That is all that happened."

"I take strong exception to anyone accusing any of my colleagues up here on the board of supervisors or myself of any wrongdoing when we're looking out for the best interest of the township," Swomley said. "Enough said."

No one addressed the casino during the public comment period. 

Township officials have expressed support of a mini-casino, saying it would help to revitalize the mall and provide an economic boost to other businesses in the township.

"We want to bring in people from other areas and have them spend money in Springettsbury Township," Swomley said after the meeting.

A public hearing on the proposed casino will be held at a future date, according to the state Gaming Control Board.

Plans call for the "Hollywood Casino York" to open with about 500 slot machines and 20 table games. The casino, however, will be designed to accommodate up to 750 slot machines and 40 table games, according to Penn National Gaming.

Reaction on social media

A mini-casino at the mall has drawn mixed reactions from the public on social media.

Jennifer Bollman commented on the Retro York Facebook page that she thinks this is a mistake. She used to live near the Maryland LIVE Casino. "They said profits from the casino there would go towards schools, they didn't. It brought more traffic congestion to the area, it brought more housing development to the area to the point of over crowding, I hated going to the mall there (same concept) because the mall was crowded and there was never any parking so I'd opt for a smaller mall farther away," she wrote.

John Stein wrote on the Retro York Facebook page: "I must say that my initial reaction was 'oh no! Not a casino in my neighborhood'. But after looking at FACTS and weighing the positives for my community, I'm truly encouraged that this will be a benefit to Springettsbury and the York community. I envision this bringing in restaurants to the facility and the possibility of revitalizing a space that currently is vacant! 

I'm very hopeful and I'm very happy that our supervisors are exploring things 'outside the box'. "

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

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