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Shippensburg chosen for casino site by Greenwood Gaming

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SHIPPENSBURG –  A gaming company has chosen Shippensburg Township as the location for a mini casino, after being turned down twice elsewhere in Cumberland County

Proponents say the casino will pay out millions of dollars to the local economy. 

Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., the parent of Parx Casino in Buck County, plans to build the satellite casino on Cramer Road within sight of Interstate 81 Exit 29 and next door to a planned “big box” warehouse off Walnut Bottom Road (Pa. 174).

Shippensburg chosen for casino site by Greenwood Gaming

The casino plan needs township approval and faces a local public hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

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More: The odds of a casino coming to Chambersburg or Shippensburg just improved

The casino could open as early as August 2020, according to Marc Oppenheimer. It would employ about 200 people, 160 of them full time. Construction will temporarily employ about 350 workers and have an impact of $60 million.

The floor initially will have 475 slot machines and 40 table terminals, where patrons bet at a screen on the spin of a central roulette wheel.

“It will be mini-version of our property in Bensalem,” Oppenheimer said, referring to a casino in Bucks County. “It will be a worthwhile building. It won’t be a warehouse with a couple of slot machines in it.”

He estimated the annual impact at $43 million -- including salaries, taxes, payments to local vendors and $1.8 million that will be split equally by the township and county.

Casino could spin off more development

The casino also brings the promise of further development at Exit 29. Restaurants and motels could pop up in neighboring Southampton Township, Cumberland County, according to Shippensburg Township Supervisor Steve Oldt.

It’s the last site for commercial development in Shippensburg Township, according Oldt.

“We are a unique municipality,” Oldt said. “We struggle with budget because we're so small. We only have so many rooftops.”

That amounts to 1,000 homes, according to Oldt, and 350 of them are in a manufactured-housing community catering to retirees. Most township residents are Shippensburg University students living off campus. The state-owned university also takes a chunk of potentially taxable real estate.

“It gets pretty creative for us,” Oldt said. “A casino would be a big help budget-wise, it it’s successful.”

More: Chambersburg council limits casino sites to I-81 corridor

More: 6 county municipalities open door to mini-casino

The casino would give Shippensburg Township and economic boost the way a landfill has delivered revenue to nearby Hopewell Township.

“The location is perfect,” Oldt said. “I can hit a baseball from it to I-81. It’s zoned industrial. It’s easy on and off from Exit 29.”

“The Pennsylvania (gaming) market is one of convenience rather than destination as it is in New Jersey,” said Doug Harbach, spokesman for the state gaming control board. “This falls in lockstep with successful casinos in Pennsylvania.”

Shippensburg chosen for casino site by Greenwood Gaming

Community will be consulted

Oldt said he doubts that the Parx casino will bring crime or other problems to the area.

“There’s not much to do in Shippensburg,” Oldt said. “It’s not like you’re in Las Vegas at the casino.”

The gaming control board will host a local public hearing, probably in a month or two, Harbach said. Citizens, organizations and public officials are welcome to testify.

“The board has to be satisfied that this is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and the community,” he said. There are no for-sures in the licensing process. That’s why we’ll come into the community and listen to what people have to say.”

Opposition to a major casino proposed at Gettysburg National Military Park in 2005, and again in 2010, led to developer David LeVan eventually giving up on the idea.  

Parx is known to the board, but the gaming board will conduct a background investigation, Harbach said.

Parx bets on Shippensburg

Greenwood Gaming, the parent company of Parx, paid $8.1 million to the gaming board in February for the right to locate a small casino within a 30-mile-diameter circle centered around a point in South Newton Township, Cumberland County. The company failed to get Carlisle and South Middleton Township to go back on their pledges to ban a mini casino.

The gaming board granted Greenwood a two-month extension to site the casino. The deadline is Saturday.

The Parx mini casino would compete with Penn National's larger Hollywood Casino in Grantville.

About 300,000 people live within 25 miles of the site and 500,000 within 40 miles, according to Oppenheimer. The casino will attract patrons for the Hagerstown, Md., area. The I-81 corridor also is growing rapidly.

The company is buying the land from an affiliate of Equus Capital Partners Ltd., one of the nation's leading managers of private equity fund real estate. It’s an outparcel of an 80-acre tract where Equus is building a million-plus square foot distribution center.

Shippensburg chosen for casino site by Greenwood Gaming

A land development plan for the casino needs township approval, but one has yet to be submitted, according to Oldt.

Construction of the casino will take 18 to 24 months after the project gets the green light from the gaming board, according to Oppenheimer. It could open around August or December of 2020. He did not have a construction cost estimate.

Jim Hook, 717-262-4759

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