Mini-casinos are the shiny new things in Pennsylvania for retail gambling. But not a new concept.

Plans for satellite casinos have kicked about for three years, ushered in by a gaming expansion plan passed in 2017. But it took another year to even start taking bids.

And then there were bumps and pauses along the way.

Plans for 10 PA mini-casinos, but reality is just five

PA lawmakers intent on adding more revenue initially had dreams of adding 10 sparkly new mini-casino sites.

That didn’t work out as planned. There were fits and starts. Just five satellites is the market reality.

That’s because over the auction process, interest waned among qualified buyers for shelling out millions simply for the rights to buy a license for a second-tier location.

Eventually, five licenses went out. Mt. Airy Casino had a winning bid of $21,888,888.88. They were later denied the license for a lack of financing, and got 75% of the bid back. One last auction for the freed-up license took place last September.

Collectively, bids for mini licenses raised nearly $121.3 million. That figure does not include ongoing fees and eventual income revenue.

But only one mini is open to date, though three will be operating by the end of 2021.

PA State Income From Mini-Casino Auctions

Parent CasinoBid AmountLocation
Hollywood Casino$50,100,000York in York County
Live! Casino Pittsburgh (Stadium Casino LLC)$40,100,005Greensburg in Westmoreland County
Parx Casino$8,111,000Shippensburg in Cumberland County
Hollywood Morgantown$7,500,003Morgantown in Berks County
Bally's Casino$10,000,101Unionville in Centre County
Mount Airy Casino Pittsburgh (license application denied) $21,888,888.88 (Lost $5,472,222.22)Beaver County (Western PA)

The PA mini-casino lineup

Here’s the satellite casino lineup:

  • Live! Casino Pittsburgh opened last November in a suburb of the ‘burgh. It is a mall rehab.
  • Another mini is opening in August. Hollywood York, another mall rehab, opens in a York suburb in August.
  • Hollywood Morgantown should open in November.
  • Bally’s mini-casino near State College is in the early planning stage and could open in late 2022. It is also a mall rehab. It is the license freed up by Mt. Airy’s stumble. Cordish, Live! Philadelphia Casino’s parent company, lost out in the bidding.
  • Parx Casino Shippensburg is also likely to open in 2022, but earlier than Bally’s with its planning further along. The planned rehab of a stand-alone big box store, a former Lowe’s, is relatively simple.

Next, we look at the details of each.

Live! Casino Pittsburgh

Live! Casino Pittsburgh was the first mini to open, back last November. It opened a few months before the full-sized Live! Casino Philadelphia. Parent Cordish Companies introduced its online product, PlayLive! last August. All have a shared Live! rewards card.

The location was the first to reimagine vacant mall space for gaming.

Investment in the rehab was $150 million.

There are more than 100,000 square feet of gaming, dining and entertainment space, along with 750 slots and approximately 30 table games.

The suburban casino has more than 6,000 parking spaces. Sports bettors have a FanDuel-branded retail sportsbook.

Annual economic impact is projected at $188 million. Annual taxes will likely be about $47.5 million. Live! should provide about 500 permanent new jobs.

Hollywood York

Penn National’s mini at a rehabbed mall space in suburban York is set for an August opening.

A sportsbook, casual dining, bar, entertainment facilities, slots – up to 750 – are allowed, and 24 to 40 table games are planned for the 80,000-square-foot facility, projected initially to cost $120 million before the virus delay.

Penn National, the parent company, had to halt construction, both because of virus restrictions and also due to revenue woes, delaying work there and at a sister mini-site in Morgantown. Work resumed in November 2020.

A Barstool Sportsbook and Bar with “interactive experiences” is planned. Hollywood Casino York will offer mychoice loyalty program, rewarding online play at HollywoodCasino.com, Barstool Sportsbook and online casino, and land-based play at York and other mychoice properties.

Hollywood Morgantown

A brick-and-mortar ground-up casino is coming to the side of the PA Turnpike at the Morgantown exit, likely in November.

Up to 750 slot machines, 30 table games, a betting lounge, a restaurant and food outlets, and an entertainment lounge on a 36-acre lot are planned. The location is about half the way between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

They partnered early with BetMGM PA for their online sportsbook. Hollywood Casino Granville already has three PA online casino skins its iGaming license.

Bally’s State College and Parx Shippensburg

These two properties, Bally’s State College and Parx Shippensburg, are early in the planning stage.

Shippensburg had a public input hearing on the campus of Shippensburg University on May 20. A vacant Shippensburg Lowe’s is the target location for Parx.

Bally’s has yet to hold a required public hearing.

But they hope casino construction will begin during the first half of 2021 and work should take a year. The casino should have up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games.

Bally’s plans a retail sportsbook as well as a Bally’s online casino and PA online sportsbook.

But details are pending for both locations.