The Harrisburg suburb of Carlisle is making it quite clear it really doesn’t want a mini-casino.
When lawmakers authorized the construction of up to 10 mini-casinos across the state as a part of a gambling expansion law passed in October 2017, they gave PA municipalities an out.
Individual municipalities that didn’t want casino gambling inside their borders could simply opt-out by passing a resolution, then forwarding it to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) before the end of the year.
More than 1,000 of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities opted out, including Carlisle.
In fact, Carlisle council voted 4-2 in December 2017 to opt out of allowing a mini-casino there. However, that hasn’t stopped the company behind the state’s top-grossing casino from trying to change its mind.
The persistence of Parx
Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, owner and operator of Parx Casino & Racing in Bensalem, won the fourth auction for PA mini-casino construction rights in February after a bit of drama.
Sands Bethworks Gaming, LLC, owner Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, actually submitted the highest bid. It’s $9.9 million bid was accepted by the board, until board members figured out the area where Sands planned to build intruded on an area already claimed in a previous winning bid. That previous bid was from the owners of Mount Airy Casino Resort.
Sands’ bid was invalidated and Greenwood’s second-biggest $8.1 million bid to build in Cumberland County was accepted instead.
That gave Greenwood six months to submit an application for a Category 4 slot machine license. The application must include specific details regarding the exact location where it plans to build a mini-casino in Cumberland.
At the time, Greenwood officials said the growing population in Cumberland and surrounding counties, and the Interstate 81 corridor running through it, made it a perfect location. Each Category 4 mini-casino can operate between 300 and 750 slot machines and 30 table games. The operators can also petition PGCB after one year to add 10 more table games.
Last month, it became clear Greenwood officials were eyeing Carlisle as a possible location. In fact, in an effort to get it to rescind its previous resolution and opt back into allowing mini-casinos, they met with Carlisle council.
The Greenwood Gaming pitch
Greenwood Gaming CEO Anthony Ricci made a presentation to council May 2 claiming a mini-casino in Carlisle could bring in 250 full-time, permanent and above minimum wage jobs. Plus, it would inject as much as $50 million into the local community.
Additionally, Ricci said the operation would put $1 million into both Carlisle and Cumberland County coffers.
However, according to The Sentinel, a daily newspaper based in Carlisle, several residents in attendance raised serious concerns about what a mini-casino would do to the area.
One called slot machines the crack cocaine of gambling. Others claimed gambling targets the poor and addiction-prone.
The overwhelming sentiment appeared to be Carlisle residents don’t want the negative consequences often perceived to come with casino gambling.
Carlisle gives a clear no
A week later, Carlisle Mayor Tim Scott opened the Carlisle council meeting with a simple statement. He said the council was not in favor of a mini-casino there. With the majority opposed, there are no plans to take up the issue any further.
Mayor Scott also posted on the social media site Nextdoor claiming council had no plans to reconsider its decision to opt out on mini-casinos.
Rumors had Greenwood Gaming eyeing a soon-to-be-empty Bon-Ton store at The Point at Carlisle Plaza Mall. Now it appears it will have to look elsewhere. But if Greenwood remains focused on the I-81 corridor, that could prove tough. Like Carlisle, several area municipalities have already opted out.
Greenwood Gaming’s six months to apply for a license with location details will be up in August.