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Parx Casino files application to build mini-casino in Shippensburg

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Parx Casino files application to build mini-casino in Shippensburg

This post was updated at 7:02 p.m. Tuesday with comments from Shippensburg Township Supervisor Steve Oldt.

The parent company of Parx Casino in Bucks County has filed papers with the state Gaming Control Board to build a new mini-casino in western Cumberland County, near Shippensburg.

The proposed site lies in tiny Shippensburg Township, just north of the borough and just east of the Franklin County line and best-known until now as home to Shippensburg University.

Parx, if it wins a license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, is shooting for a 2020 opening.

The township is one of a handful of municipalities in South Central Pennsylvania that left the door open to casino development after passage of Pennsylvania's massive 2017 gambling expansion package.

That means elected officials there don't have the direct ability to veto the project, as long as it meets all local zoning and land development requirements.

But the casino project still has to pass muster with the PGCB, including a public input hearing at which township residents will be able to voice their support or concerns.

"The applicant has some control of the site, but it must also obtain all required permits locally to satisfy the board and gain the award," gaming control board spokesman Doug Harbach said.

"The board will also look at the same issues as with any casino licensing including... whether the applicant is likely to maintain a financially successful, viable and efficient business operation in that location, and is likely able to maintain a steady level of revenue growth.

"Certainly there could special conditions attached to the license as well," Harbach added. 

For Parx, this represents the end of a tortured site selection process that saw company officials wage unsuccessful campaigns earlier this year to repeal casino opt-out resolutions in Carlisle and its neighboring South Middleton Township.

But for a third choice, the company seems happy enough.

"We are happy about the site, we're looking forward to building there and running a great business there," said Marc Oppenheimer, the company's chief marketing officer.

Oppenheimer noted initial plans call for 475 slot machines and 40 table game betting positions in a casino that, once open, will be within 25 miles of 300,000 residents.

The new building, as proposed, would literally be visible right from Interstate 81, with easy access from the highway's Exit 29.

The tract is a 10-acre, out-parcel created in a larger subdivision bringing a major freight and warehousing facility to I-81's Walnut Bottom Road interchange. The original developers are Newtown Square, Pa.-based Equus Capital Partners Ltd.

Centered on the Cumberland / Franklin county line, Parx executives believe it is well-positioned to bring in customers from areas north and east of Carlisle all the way south into the Hagerstown, Md. market.

In addition, while it remains to be seen how well the project will be received by township residents, Parx does appear to have the full-throated support of local elected officials.

"We're kind of excited," said Steve Oldt, chairman of the Shippensburg Township board of supervisors.

Oldt said he's inclined to support the project because the chosen parcel is miles aways from any significant residential development, but also makes sense for interstate development.

Secondly, he said, with the large amount of university-owned land that is off the property tax rolls, the casino project should provide a significant shot in the arm to the township and school district's tax base.

"We've been waiting for it to happen, and we're looking forward to working with them and trying to make it as pleasant and painless as we can," Oldt told PennLive in a telephone interview.

The company revealed its plan publicly Tuesday afternoon, shortly after filing its formal licensing application.

What is a mini-casino?

By statute, the so-called Category 4, mini-casinos are permitted to have between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games.

The licenses were created last year by the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as part of a larger gambling expansion bill they accepted as the politically-easiest way to solve a budget deficit.

The law authorized up to 10 of the smaller casinos, intended for second-tier markets across the state and required by law to be at least 25 miles from one of Pennsylvania's 12 established casinos.

To date, licensing rights to five locations have been acquired, including - besides the Parx site in Cumberland County - two acquired by Penn National Gaming for casinos near York and, presumably, Berks County.

Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, Parx's parent, paid $8.1 million in February for rights to site a small casino within a 30-mile circle roughly centered on the Interstate 81 corridor between Chambersburg and Carlisle.

That set the company off on a site selection process that identified Carlisle as its first choice, only to be sent packing after a strong grassroots opposition movement marshalled against it.

Eventually, Parx turned its focus to alternatives in the Shippensburg and Chambersburg areas. The Equus site, with the best highway access and the fewest legal impediments, has won the derby.

More about Shippensburg.

Oppenheimer said in addition to the typical casino gambling floor, Parx is planning to open at least one sports bar / restaurant in the facility.

Still to be determined is whether the Shippensburg site would be host to a sports betting parlor.

If the Gaming Control Board permits the state's commercial casino operators to run sports books in their satellite casinos under the umbrella of an initial $10 million sports betting license fee, it well might, Oppenheimer said.

If the state intends to assess additional license fees for each sports book, then the mini-casino would likely only be outfitted to handle creation of accounts for Parx's online sports betting program.

Oppenheimer said based on the company's market analysis, Parx expects the new facility will generate about $45 million in gross gaming revenue annually, resulting in about $950,000 in host municipality payments to both Cumberland County and the township.

In addition, he said the approximately 200 jobs, including at least 100 full-time positions, and other purchases of services and supplies will carry an annual economic impact of about $43 million.

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNGAkURvbtvSSNaQFP7I94ZnZykB-Q&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52780076156778&ei=BJfQW7j-MYTlhQHRuJT4Cg&url=https://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/10/parx_casino_files_application.html

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