In fact, the list of municipalities opting out on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board website was up over 200 by 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 4.
However, at least one PA municipality is taking a different tack. The City of Reading in Berks County wants the local gambling industry to know it’s doors are open to them.
Reading wants in the satellite casino business
In fact, Reading City Council voted unanimously Monday to pass a resolution urging the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to approve plans for a satellite casino there.
With a population of a little less than 90,000, Reading is the fifth-largest city in Pennsylvania. It is perhaps best known for lending its name to a now-defunct railroad that was one of four on the classic Monopoly board. Or possibly for the large number of pretzel bakeries that call it home.
Of course, Reading made national headlines in 2010 for all the wrong reasons. The National Census identified it as having the highest share of citizens living in poverty in the entire country.
Now, the city government is hoping a satellite casino can help turn its economic fortunes around.
State lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill in October. Among several measures, it authorized the construction of up to ten satellite casinos across the state.
These mini-casinos could house anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and 30 table games. However, none are allowed to be built within a 25-mile radius of one of the state’s 12 existing casino properties. Plus, municipalities are able to opt out, prohibiting the opening of a satellite casino near them.
Reading is opting in.
The entire city council is behind it
It all started with Reading Mayor Wally Scott telling the local press he fully supported the idea of bringing a satellite casino to the city. Before long, Reading City Council President Jeff Waltman was calling the city a prime location.
Soon after, Reading’s Managing Director Glenn Steckman was touting the benefits of such an operation. He said a satellite casino would create jobs and help re-energize certain areas of the city. He pointed to the economic development seen around other casinos like the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem as an example.
By Monday of this week, Waltman was introducing a resolution urging the PA casino industry to consider Reading for a satellite casino. Plus, the entire City Council was behind the idea.
The good outweighs the bad
Concerns about potential societal ills brought on by the presence of casinos may have hundreds of municipalities opting out. However, the members of Reading City Council stand by the idea the state is already funding problem gambling initiatives and a satellite casino in Reading would do everyone a lot more good than bad.
“With gambling facilities, there are always negatives, but the positives far outweigh them,” Councilman John Slifko said at the meeting where the resolution was passed. “This is an opportunity to help with the revitalization of downtown. Gambling is going to go somewhere. We might as well have it here and reap some of the good aspects.”
Next up for Reading is to see if any PA casinos want to bid on opening up a mini-casino there. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will be accepting bids early 2018.
In the meantime, other municipalities across the state have until Dec. 31 to opt out.