First Pennsylvania Satellite Casino Approved, as Township Officials Back Hollywood Morgantown

Posted on: March 14, 2019, 02:04h. 

Last updated on: March 14, 2019, 02:08h.

The first satellite casino in Pennsylvania has been approved by local officials. Following the Caernarvon Township Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote this week, Penn National Gaming can proceed with its Hollywood Casino Morgantown.

Pennsylvania satellite casino Hollywood Morgantown
Many area residents are upset to learn that the Pennsylvania satellite casino planned for Morgantown is a moving forward. (Image: The Mercury)

The 36-acre development will be located where the Pennsylvania Turnpike intersects with Interstate 176. Plans for the satellite casino call for 750 slot machines and 30 table games, along with several restaurants and an entertainment space.

Despite a strong turnout at a public hearing held last week by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regarding Penn National’s plans – with many voicing strong opposition to the casino – township supervisors felt the economic and financial gain was too great to dismiss.

Hollywood Casino Morgantown is expected to inject $94.3 million into the local economy, create 255 construction jobs, and 250 subsequent permanent casino positions. Caernarvon expects to receive $1.6 million in yearly taxes.

Penn National still needs signoffs from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Berks County Conservation District. Satellite casinos are called as such because they’re essentially smaller gaming extensions of an already licensed gaming operator’s primary property.

Protecting Homefield

Penn National wasn’t exactly thrilled when Pennsylvania passed its gaming expansion package in the fall of 2017. In fact, the state’s oldest gaming operator sued on grounds that the Category 4 authorizations – the designation for the satellites – would unfairly hurt business at its Hollywood Casino in Grantville near the Harrisburg capital.

Penn later dropped its case against the state, and ended up bidding heavily on the satellite auctions. It won the first round with a $50.1 million offer, and selected a 15-mile radius centered in York County. It later obtained a second Category 4 site with a $10.5 million bid, which became the Morgantown location.

Why Morgantown?

Morgantown sits in a highly traveled area, as Reading – Pennsylvania’s fifth most populated city – is just a 20-minute drive north via I-176. Lancaster is 40 minutes west, and the densely populated and affluent Philly Main Line is just 30 minutes east.

Along with south-central Pennsylvania where York County is located, Lancaster, Reading, and other central-eastern parts of the state are major markets for Penn’s Hollywood Casino in Grantville. That property – which is a full-scale casino featuring 2,450 slot machines and 56 table games – will remain the company’s most important asset inside the Keystone State.

Four Others Remain

Along with Penn National’s two satellites, Greenwood Gaming, parent company to Parx Casino near Philadelphia, is working on a plan to bring a mini-casino to Shippensburg, which is west of Harrisburg.

Mount Airy Casino is developing a satellite 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, and The Cordish Companies’ Stadium Casino LLC is envisioning plans for a gaming venue at the Westmoreland Mall roughly 45 minutes of the Steel City.

Along with the satellites, Pennsylvania has legalized video gaming terminals at certain truck stops, airport gaming lounges, online casinos and daily fantasy sports, and sports betting.

The Pennsylvania gaming industry will quickly learn whether the expanded offerings will grow overall gaming, or simply poach from existing venues. The 12 land-based casinos collectively won $3.248 billion in 2018, up $22 million from the previous year.