Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc.’s Parx Casino has chosen Shippensburg Township as their site for a Category 4 mini casino.
Parx Casino submitted their Category 4 slot machine license application to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board around 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to Carrie Nork Minelli, director of advertising and public relations at Parx Casino.
In the application, Parx selected a site, approximately 10 acres in size, on Walnut Bottom Road in the township next to Exit 29 of Interstate 81, which will include “plenty of area for parking,” she said.
The site is an outparcel created from the subdivision of the property housing the incoming 1,100,500-square-foot, cross-docked distribution, fulfillment and e-commerce industrial facility. The mini casino will be constructed between the new industrial center and a relocated Cramer Road.
The site will be built from the ground up, and will take roughly 18 to 24 months to build. Parx is targeting late 2020 for completion.
Doug Harbach, spokesman for the board, confirmed the reception of the application, and said the board will now review the application and ensure any items deemed deficient be provided by Parx. The board will then begin a background investigation, which will include the scheduling of a public input hearing in Shippensburg Township to gather testimony from citizens, government officials and organizations on record. Testimony can also be submitted via writing.
As soon as the license is officially granted, Parx will begin construction, according to Minelli.
Parx Casino owns a similar facility in Bensalem that holds 3,330 slot machines and 180 table games.
In comparison, Minelli says this mini casino in Shippensburg Township is expected to have approximately 475 slot machines and 40 table games. The construction of the facility will create about 350 jobs, along with an additional 200 full- and part-time jobs once the casino is up and running. The casino will also have a sports bar and a restaurant, among other entertainment options.
She added there will be an estimated $60 million of economic benefit to the area during the construction phase. Once it is up and running, there will be approximately $43 million of economic benefit annually to the area.
“We have gotten terrific feedback from the Shippensburg community,” she said. “This will be a first-class entertainment venue with games, shows and all that fun stuff.”
As part of the local share component of the state legislation, an estimated $1.8 million of annual revenue will be provided to Cumberland County and Shippensburg Township, or approximately $900,000 each.
“It certainly will help with the tax base,” said Supervisor Steve Oldt. “There are going to be a lot of naysayers and a lot of people who don't like gambling. Whether it brings crime and all that is yet to be determined.”
“Moving forward, it's going to be a long, slow process, and they will have all the time in the world with 2020 being their target date. They will have sufficient time to submit land development plans,” he added.
The Pennsylvania legislature approved a new gambling bill in October of 2017, which allowed for 10 new mini casinos to be awarded through a series of auctions.
Prior to this legislation, the awarding and placement of mini casinos has never occurred in Pennsylvania's history.
Greenwood Gaming was the highest bidder in a Feb. 22 Category 4 auction and chose to find a site within a 15-mile radius of a central point in South Newton Township to build.
Municipalities had the option to file an “opt-out” agreement, and shoot down any possibility of hosting a casino with the legislation. Shippensburg Township was one of the few municipalities in the radius that decided not to file this resolution. These municipalities were on board with welcoming a casino to their respective municipalities.
This reason was ultimately why Shippensburg Township was selected, Minelli said.
If a municipality decided to “opt-in,” the legislation dictated that a municipality could not change their mind after Dec. 31, 2017.
If a municipality opted-out, like many decided to do, local officials were allowed to reverse their decision at a later date.
Carlisle and South Middleton Township originally were in the running for the casino after deciding to opt-out, and both municipalities discussed possibly reversing the decision.
Parx CEO, Anthony Ricci, made a pitch on the benefits of bringing a casino to the area, and was met with opposition from residents, so officials decided against the reversal.
Prior to this announcement, Parx Casino had narrowed their search between Shippensburg Township and Greene Township. With Greene Township, they had their eyes on the Chambersburg Mall site.
The company previously met with Mason Asset Management (MAM), owners of the mall, and Bennett Williams Realty Group to discuss the leasing of a 4.38-acre parcel of land directly in front of the mall, and the usage of 6 to 8 acres of open space called “mall pads” for the casino.
Any site chosen within Greene Township posed a specific issue since it is a “dry” community, and would make obtaining a liquor license more complicated for GGE. The gaming company would need to obtain a referendum on the next primary election ballot, or be granted a specialty license if Greene Township had been chosen.