Mini-casino license awarded in Cumberland County

A second mini-casino is in the works for Central Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board today said it awarded a mini-casino license, also known as a Category 4 license, to Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., which operates Parx Casino in Bucks County.

Greenwood bid $8.1 million for the chance to build a casino within a 15-mile radius of South Newton Township, which is near Shippensburg in southwestern Cumberland County.

Licenses for the smaller casinos are being auctioned off under a state expansion of casino-style gambling. The new gambling parlors can house 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games.

Although it was the winner in the state’s fourth license auction, held Wednesday, Greenwood was the second-highest bidder. 

The state invalidated the top bid, submitted by Sands Bethworks Gaming LLC, after the company’s Mercer County plan was found to be too close to another mini-casino project.

Greenwood officials were not immediately available for comment on why they chose South Newton Township as a focal point in their quest for a new casino.

Local economic development officials have said easy highway access will be a primary factor for companies that operate these smaller satellite casinos.

The heavily-traveled Interstate 81 corridor runs through many of the areas within Greenwood’s bid circle.

Opting out

Twenty-seven of the 33 municipalities in Cumberland County opted out of hosting mini-casinos, but state law allows local governments one chance to reverse their decisions.

South Newton Township opted out. But others in Cumberland County, including some next to South Newton, did not. They are: Hopewell, Lower Frankford, Shippensburg, Southampton, Upper Frankford and Upper Mifflin townships.

The 15-mile bid circle also could lead Greenwood into neighboring Franklin County.

The first mini-casino license went in January to Penn National Gaming, the Berks County-based owner of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in East Hanover Township. It is eyeing a project in York County.

Two other licenses have been awarded, for projects in Westmoreland and Lawrence counties.

Collectively, winning companies have bid nearly $120 million for the right to build four mini-casinos. Penn National bid $50.1 million. The winning bids have fallen from there, with $40.1 million bid on the Westmoreland County site and $21.2 million for the project in Lawrence County.

Ten mini-casino licenses are available. The next auction will be held March 7 in Harrisburg.

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