Looks Like Hollywood Casino Will Edge Out Parx As PA’s First Sportsbook

Hollywood Casino thinks it can start taking sports bets as soon as mid-November, while Parx changes its timetable from November to “soon”.

It’s been more than a year since Gov. Tom Wolfe signed PA gambling expansion into law. Yet, we are only now getting ready for the launch of sports betting in Pennsylvania.

The historic legislation paved the way for, among other things, the opening of sportsbooks and online sports betting, both of which are now close to becoming a reality.

Parx and Hollywood Casino made headlines this past week as they announced where they are at in the timeline for launching a land-based and online sportsbook.

Hollywood Sportsbook may be just weeks away

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the sports betting petitions of Hollywood and Parx, giving them a three-week headstart over the other three applicants.

Of the two casinos, Hollywood is the closest to debuting their sportsbook. The retail sportsbook is the result of the property’s partnership with European sports betting giant William Hill.

In order to launch the sportsbook, Hollywood and William Hill will have to satisfy the requirements of the PGCB’s “trial” phase, in which Hollywood will have to check off a variety of requirements.

Those requirements include the following steps, per our research of existing regulations at the time of publishing:

  • Provide estimated full-time and part-time employees along with job descriptions and photos of each principal or key employee
  • Identify the Minority Business EnterpriseWomen Business Enterprise, and/or Local Business Enterprise status of each known and proposed contractors and subcontractors
  • Ensure providers, vendors, contractors, and subcontractors file appropriate applications and are authorized by the PGCB to perform their respective duties
  • Submit an itemized list of the types of wagers to offer and in which sports
  • Submit detailed site plans of proposed sportsbook
  • Allow for inspection of all equipment and devices and comply with laboratory testing by PGCB

Considering that William Hill has worked with U.S. regulators in West Virginia and New Jersey, meeting the PGCB’s trial requirements shouldn’t be too difficult. Really, it is about running successful tests in order to get the okay to launch.

Parx to launch in a couple of months

At first, it seemed inevitable that Parx would launch a sportsbook first. However, over the past month, Parx seems more focused on its permanent sportsbook than rushing a temporary facility to market.

Parx is investing $10 million in a permanent sportsbook and have plans to launch a temporary sportsbook sometime in the next couple of months.

The exact launch date of the land-based sportsbook is unknown. What might be holding up the process is Parx’s sports betting partner, Kambi, still has not been approved for a PA operator license. So, rather than aiming for November like it initially did, Parx is now simply saying “in the next few months.”

Battle Over Hollywood Casino York Results In A PGCB Hearing

After opting out, opting back in, and accusations of bribery, the Hollywood Casino York mini-casino project is getting a Nov. 1 public hearing.

It may not be as simple as putting a York in it, after all. At least as far as the Hollywood Casino York, proposed by Penn National Gaming, is concerned.

Trouble from the start for satellite casino

The proposed York Galleria mini-casino site is already creating ample issues for Springettsbury Township already. As part of the Pennsylvania gambling expansion bill Gov. Tom Wolf signed into existence in 2017, municipalities had the option of opting out from hosting one of 10 proposed satellite casinos.

Plenty did just that, Springettsbury Township included.

In order to opt out, municipalities needed to conduct a public meeting, take a vote, and then send documentation of that vote to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Only a small handful of municipalities actually lobbied for a new casino, meaning more than 1,000 municipalities in Pennsylvania chose to opt out.

Despite Springettsbury’s initial reluctance, the town council voted to overturn the opt-out. Determined residents put up a fight via public forums, but that didn’t stop the $120 million deal with Penn National to open Hollywood Casino York at the York Galleria site.

Springettsbury springs back to contention

Mini-casinos, also known as satellite casinos, are, in essence, limited-size gambling parlors. Penn National expects Hollywood Casino York to initially hold 500 slots and 20 table games. All told, mini-casinos in Pennsylvania are allowed to house up to 750 slots and 40 table games.

But if a fair number of Springettsbury Township residents have their way, the former Sears at the York Galleria mall may not play host to any games or slots or, really, gambling of any kind.

This week, the PGCB set a date for another attempt at gathering public opinion on the proposed Hollywood Casino York.

Residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinion and make any and all concerns heard. It may well be their last chance to speak against, or in favor of, the Hollywood Casino York.

Already, Springettsbury supervisors have taken strides to make Penn National feel more at home, modifying town ordinances to make room for the mini-casino.

Following the initial hearings in July, in which residents cited concerns over potential increases in crime, drops in property value, and the casino’s proximity to schools and a playground, Springettsbury Township supervisors pushed forward, altering ordinances to include regulations for casinos, such as allowing them in the commercial highway zone, which includes the mall.

Why the contention over Hollywood Casino York?

If it seems that the proposed Hollywood York Casino is embroiled in more than its fair share of controversy, you’re right.

Springettsbury’s initial decision to opt out presumably led to the majority of the infighting. It culminated in allegations of a bribe in mid-September.

Previously, Penn National sued Pennsylvania over the very notion of mini-casinos. Penn National was concerned that the expansion of gambling in the state would cause “significant and unique” harm to its property, Hollywood Casino, located in Harrisburg.

Township supervisor Mark Swomley vehemently denied the bribe allegations, which came via an email from a concerned citizen, and attempted to explain away the township’s initial decision to opt out.

As Swomley frames it, the township did not have a working definition of ‘gaming facilities’ in its zoning ordinance. Therefore, it did not have control over where a casino could be placed within the community. Hence the changes to the ordinance and, perhaps, the subsequent about-face regarding a mini-casino in their community.

How to chime in on Hollywood Casino York

Any Springettsbury residents intending to speak at the hearing must register at the board’s website. Follow the QuickLinks section to the “Penn National Casino York Public Input Hearing” link.

People who cannot attend the hearing but would like to place comments into the record can also mail [email protected] or fax comments to 717-265-7416.

The deadline for registration to speak is noon on Oct. 30. Mailed comments must be postmarked no later than Oct. 30 and mailed to:

PA Gaming Control Board
P.O. Box 69060
Harrisburg, PA 17106
Attention: Board Clerk

Penn National Fighting Satellite Casino Battle On Two Fronts

Penn National Gaming has entered into a battle with the state of Pennsylvania over satellite casinos and is defending its Hollywood Casino on at least two fronts.

Penn National Gaming has entered into a battle with the state of Pennsylvania over satellite casinos. The company is defending its Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course on at least two fronts.

First off, the Pennsylvania-based gaming and hospitality giant filed a lawsuit in federal court in Harrisburg this past Tuesday. The suit alleges the state’s plan to allow the construction of up to 10 satellite casinos will cause “significant and unique harm” to Hollywood Casino.

Secondly, Penn National Gaming outbid other PA casino owners and operators for the right to develop the state’s first satellite casino. The company bid a whopping $50.1 million for the right to go ahead with a satellite casino of its own in York County.

The radius around the new site, and the number of area municipalities opting out of hosting a satellite casino prior to the bidding process, would essentially give Penn National Gaming exclusive casino gambling rights in a large portion of south central Pennsylvania.

The satellite casino buffer zones

State lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill in October 2017. Alongside the authorization of online gambling, the new laws allow for the construction of up to ten satellite casinos, each with up to 750 slot machines.

The plan created a 25-mile buffer zone around existing casino properties so these new satellite gambling operations wouldn’t draw business away from them.

Municipalities who don’t want a satellite casino were invited to opt out of hosting one. Then, the bidding process opened up to owners and operators of Pennsylvania’s 12 existing casinos. The minimum bid is $7.5 million, plus $2.5 million for a gaming license. Auction winners can also buy a separate certificate to operate up to 30 table games for $2.5 million.

Penn National Gaming cries foul

However, Penn National Gaming has been crying foul from the start.

Company executives claim Hollywood Casino faces more competition from satellite casinos than any other Pennsylvania casino operation. It maintains these satellite casinos will poach its statewide customer base. Plus, it says other casino properties are being better protected by the law.

Penn National Gaming says casinos built closer together in other parts of the state help create larger buffer zones. In effect, that gives these properties more protection than Hollywood Casino enjoys.

Plus, the company claims most of its customers come from outside of 25 miles around the property, exacerbating the issue.

The state responded to Penn National Gaming’s complaints by claiming it would be unfair to change the law to create a larger buffer zone only benefiting one casino.

Mount Airy gets a bigger buffer

However, it may have already done that for Mount Airy Casino Resort. The new law prohibits satellite casinos in sixth-class counties. That nearly triples the buffer around Mount Airy Casino Resort. However, it does nothing for any other PA casino.

The lawsuit claims there was no rational basis for the decision leading to the creation of the buffer zones. It also claims Penn National Gaming is being treated in an arbitrary and inequitable fashion. Plus, Penn National Gaming is claiming its constitutional rights to equal protection and due process have been violated.

State Sen. Mario Scavello, chair of the Senate committee that handled the gambling expansion legislation, has maintained the buffer zones were created based on previous state gambling laws.

Mount Airy Casino Resort is in Scavello’s district. However, he maintains the protection afforded Mount Airy is fair because it provides a cut of revenues to the counties around it.

Penn National Gaming claims it will withdraw its $50.1 million satellite casino bid if it wins the lawsuit.

In the meantime, the satellite casino bidding process continues. The other nine licenses are set to be auctioned off bi-weekly. The next one is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Penn National Gaming Buying Pinnacle Entertainment In $2.8 Billion Deal

Penn National Gaming has announced plans to buy competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth close to $2.8 billion.

Pennsylvania’s largest casino company is getting even bigger.Penn National Gaming announced Monday it is planning to buy competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth close to $2.8 billion.

Once the deal jumps through the usual regulatory hoops, Pinnacle shareholders are going to receive $20 in cash and 0.420 shares of Penn National stock per share.

After the deal is complete, Penn National Gaming shareholders will own 78 percent of the company. Pinnacle shareholders will hold the other 22 percent. The combined company will be one of the largest casino companies in the entire country. There is no indication Penn National plans to leave its Pennsylvania home.

Boyd Gaming buying the Ameristar casinos

As a part of the transaction, Penn will sell the gaming operations of four existing Pinnacle properties to Boyd Gaming Corp. for $575 million in cash. The selloff is reportedly in order to meet regulatory requirements in the areas where these casinos operate.

The casinos include:

  • Ameristar Kansas City
  • Ameristar St. Charles
  • Belterra Park
  • Belterra Casino Resort

There is also a leaseback deal in the works involving Belterra, Boyd Gaming, and Penn National real-estate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties. However, Boyd Gaming says its end of the entire deal is not likely to close until the second half of 2018.

Boyd Gaming operates more than two dozen gambling operations across the country, including a dozen in the Las Vegas, Nevada area. Its flagship property is arguably the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Wyomissing’s Penn National Gaming

Wyomissing, PA is home to Penn National Gaming’s headquarters. Prior to this Pinnacle deal, the company owned and operated 26 casino properties in the US and managed one in Canada. Of course, this includes the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA.

The Hollywood Casino brand is Penn National Gaming’s largest. In fact, it owns and operates Hollywood Casino properties in seven other states:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Ohio

It also owns the M Resort in Henderson, Nevada and Tropicana Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip.

Reutersreported that once the Pinnacle deal is done, Penn National Gaming will operate a combined 41 casino properties. These properties include more than 53,000 slot machines and 1,300 table games. They also include more than 8,300 hotel rooms.

Nevada’s Pinnacle Entertainment

Pinnacle Entertainment is headquartered in Spring Valley, Nevada. The company operates 16 casinos in nine states as well as a horse track in Texas.

This included The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County, PA.

The casino and racetrack property was bought by Penn National Gaming real-estate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties in 2015. However, Pinnacle inked a $138 million deal with Gaming and Leisure to run the casino at the property in 2016.

Pinnacle Entertainment’s largest casino brand is Ameristar. Ameristar properties can be found in:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri

Rumors of a Penn National-Pinnacle merger began to surface in October of this year when the Wall Street Journal reported both sides were in discussions.

Both companies refused to comment as stock prices soared.

Eastern PA Poker Rooms: Breaking Down Sands, Mohegan Sun, Hollywood And Mount Airy

A comparison of the four poker rooms in Eastern PA (not in Philly): Mohegan Sun Pocono, Sands Bethlehem, Mount Airy and Hollywood Casino at Penn National.

Ten of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos house poker rooms, but the sizes and offerings vary quite a bit.

We’ll take a look at the four poker rooms in the eastern part of the state: Mohegan Sun, Mount Airy, Sands, and Hollywood Casino.

Mohegan Sun Pocono poker

The Mohegan Sun Pocono poker room in Wilkes-Barre has 18 cash-game tables, which is a decent amount for the region.

On most days, Mohegan Sun offers two daily tournaments — one at 11 a.m. and one at 7 p.m. — to go along with the Sit & Go tournaments offered in the poker room. On the promotional front, Mohegan Sun has an ongoing high-hand jackpot promotion that pays out three times daily.

Stakes and games typically available at Mohegan Sun Pocono are:

  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em
  • $1/$3 no limit hold’em with no-max buy-in
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $10/$20 H.O.S.E. (A $10/$20 HOSE game with a full kill is available on Thursdays)
  • $4/$8 Omaha 8 or better with a kill
  • $2/$4 limit hold’em
  • $1-$5 seven card stud
  • State-approved games available upon request

Mount Airy poker

Mount Airy Casino in Mt. Pocono offers a small assortment of low-limit poker tables. The nine-table poker room is located a bit off the beaten path (on the third floor of the casino) and caters mainly to low-stakes locals and visitors. In fact, there’s not more than a blurb about poker on the casino’s website.

The casino doesn’t run daily tournaments on the regular, nor does it offer any special promotions beyond some jackpot-type promotions.

Stakes and games typically available at Mount Airy are:

  • $2/$4 limit hold’em
  • $3/$6 limit hold’em
  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • State-approved games available upon request

Sands Bethlehem poker

Sands Bethlehem is the king of poker in the northeast region of the state and one of the larger poker rooms in any region.

The poker room is centrally located in the casino and boasts 30 cash-game tables. The tournament schedule is bit sparse considering the size of the room, as on average you’ll only find five daily tournaments throughout the week.

Sands offers a nice assortment of promotions, including a bad-beat jackpot and high hand bonuses at select times, but the big draw at its poker room are the amenities. From the complimentary beverages to massage services, Sands offers a lot of the luxuries one would only expect to find in a Las Vegas Strip casino. The poker room is close to 24-hour eateries within the casino and also offers tableside dining from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Check out what games are currently running at the casino and the size of the jackpot on Sands’ website.

Stakes and games typically available at Sands Bethlehem are:

  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $5/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 no limit hold’em
  • $10/$25 no limit hold’em
  • $3/$6 limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 Omaha 8 or better
  • $1/$3 pot-limit Omaha
  • State-approved games available upon request

Hollywood Casino

Located at the iconic Penn National Racecourse in Grantville, Hollywood Casino’s poker room has 16 tables, and like Mount Airy, mainly caters to low-limit players.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National offers one of the best tournament selections in the area, with one to two tournaments most days.

Hollywood Casino offers a bad-beat jackpot (see how large it is on the casino’s website), as well as a high-hand promotion at select times. Other perks of playing at Hollywood Casino include call-ahead seating and weekend massage rates of $1/minute.

Stakes and games typically found at Hollywood Casino at Penn National are:

  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $2/$4 limit hold’em
  • $1/$2 pot-limit Omaha 8 or better
  • State-approved games available upon request