While Penn National Gaming expects to take until mid-September to submit its application for a mini-casino in York County, the odds of that gambling parlor landing in Springettsbury Township, specifically at the York Galleria, are improving.
The township board of supervisors on Thursday night will hold a public hearing and regular board meeting to discuss and likely take action on zoning changes that would allow for casino and gambling facilities, off-track betting and pawn shops in the township.
This is the next step needed to clear the way for Penn National’s mini-casino plans in Springettsbury Township, should the Berks County gaming giant come to terms on a property. The hearing is at 6 p.m. at the township’s administrative building, while the board meeting will follow at 7 p.m.
Leading the way for months in Springettsbury Township as a likely casino site has been the York Galleria mall. However, Penn National and the mall’s owner, Tennessee-based CBL Properties, remain mum about any negotiations.
Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers would only confirm that the mall remains one of the company’s priority sites in York County. He declined further comment until after the company makes a final selection.
Penn National, which bid $50.1 million in January for the license, also is reportedly looking at sites in three surrounding townships. The company was recently granted a one-time application extension by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which pushed the deadline to Sept. 12.
CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said the company is still in the process of evaluating redevelopment plans for the Galleria.
After news broke that the mall would be losing both Sears and Bon-Ton, CBL said in April that it was in the early stages of crafting a redevelopment plan to revive the property. It’s unclear whether the plans include a casino.
However, a mini-casino will open at the site of a Bon-Ton store that is closing at Westmoreland Mall in western Pennsylvania, the Tribune-Review reported late Tuesday night. That mall is owned by CBL. An official announcement came Wednesday.
The proposed changes in Springettsbury Township are designed to define casino and gambling facilities under the zoning ordinance, including where they can be located. The amendment language lists commercial highway district and says casino and gambling facilities can be permitted as a conditional use in the township.
The board also is making other zoning changes, including adding the Galleria to its town center overlay district to encourage more pedestrian-friendly amenities, streetscape and design improvements as the property is redeveloped.
Some officials are hoping a casino deal gets done soon and can serve as a catalyst in reviving the mall.
“It makes sense to me,” said Blanda Nace, a Springettsbury Township supervisor and director of strategic development for the York County Economic Alliance. “What else do you do with a shopping mall that needs help?”
The newly authorized mini-casinos, called Category 4 casinos, can house 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games.
Staff reporter Emily Thurlow contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to confirm that Penn National is in negotiations about space at the Galleria.