Mount Airy Satellite Casino Extension Approved, Pennsylvania Operators Slow to Build Venues

Posted on: July 20, 2018, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: July 25, 2018, 07:43h.

Mount Air #1 LLC, the parent company to its namesake casino resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, has received a two-month extension from state gaming regulators to finalize the location of its satellite casino.

Mount Airy Pennsylvania casino satellite
Pennsylvania casino regulators have approved another satellite extension request, this time for Mount Airy. (Image: Steve Esack/The Morning Call)

In February, Mount Airy was the high bidder at the third so-called “mini-casino” auction. The company offered $21,188,888.88 to secure the third of up to 10 Category 4 satellite licenses.

The company’s 15-mile secured area is centered in Lawrence County’s New Castle, a city some 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Under the state’s expanding gambling bill, which Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed into law last fall, winning satellite casino operators have six months to present the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) with a specific site proposal. However, they can file for two-month extensions with the gaming regulator.

Mount Airy’s original deadline was August 4, but at the PGCB hearing on Wednesday, it was lengthened two months to October 4.

Along with the satellites, Pennsylvania legalized online gambling and daily fantasy sports, airport gaming lounges, slot machines at truck stops, and sports betting.

Satellites Not Orbiting

The Category 4 bidding was initially open only to those casino operators already licensed in Pennsylvania. But after five auctions, which raised $119.5 million for the state, the process stalled and no further bids were received.

Operators largely opposed the satellites when they were included in the gambling expansion package. Penn National, the longest casino operator in Pennsylvania, sued the state on grounds that the mini-casinos would cause “significant and unique” harm to its Hollywood Casino near the Harrisburg capital.

Regardless, Penn National submitted the first winning bid of $50.1 million in January. The company said it was an essential move to “protect a major market.” Penn National secured a 15-mile area in York County, a critical artery that many Hollywood patrons take from southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.

There is still no formal plan for the York casino, either. Earlier this month, Penn National also obtained a two-month extension from the PGCB.

Parx Casino outside Philadelphia took the second satellite auction with a $40.1 million bid. The company is considering locations in the Carlisle area.

Penn National secured a second satellite license when it paid $10.5 million for an area in Lancaster County.

Online Access Coming

Pennsylvanians won’t soon need to travel to a brick-and-mortar casino to play their favorite slot or table game. The PGCB revealed this week that nine of the 13 licensed gambling operators have applied for online rights at a cost of $10 million each.

All five Philadelphia casinos, as well as Mount Airy, Sands Bethlehem, Hollywood, and Rivers in Pittsburgh want in on internet gambling.

Once the applications are approved, the operators will be permitted to offer online customers interactive slots, table games, and poker.

Sports betting, however, remains nonexistent. William Hill US executive Dan Shapiro explained that the $10 million fee, plus the exorbitant 36 percent tax on sports betting revenues, is keeping companies away.