State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

PA gaming expansion proceeds, with a few bumps in the road

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 22, 2018 8:12 PM

Pennsylvania's casinos are currently bidding for new satellite locations. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- The commonwealth's gambling industry is midway through a significant shift, with bidding currently underway for existing casinos to acquire newly-legal satellite locations.

The process is already raking in more money than lawmakers anticipated; but not everything is going off without a hitch.

The most recent bidding process had to be completely restarted after a casino misjudged the state's placement requirements.

On Tuesday, Bethlehem-based Sands Casino--owned by Las Vegas Sands--appeared to make a winning $9.9 million bid for a northwest Pennsylvania satellite location, in Hempfield Township.

But on review, the state Gaming Control Board realized there was a problem.

Control Board Spokesman Doug Harbach said the location Sands chose would have put it too close to a New Castle site Mount Airy Casino picked in the last bid, and so it overlapped with the state-mandated 15-mile buffer zone between casinos.

"We only open one envelope, and that's the high bidder's envelope to show their location," he said, when asked why the mistake wasn't found sooner.

"So, we didn't know that there was an issue in regards to their reserved area."

A new auction was quickly scheduled for the following day. The second-place winner, Bensalem-based Parx Casino--owned by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc.-- was awarded a Cumberland County location for $8.1 million.

That's the fourth--and by far the smallest--offer in the licensing process so far.

All told, the state has made almost $120 million dollars on new casino fees--$20 million more than lawmakers budgeted for.

Up to ten bids can happen--though Harbach noted there is no guarantee that many casinos will be interested. 

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