Pennsylvania Satellite Casino Bidding Stalls, No Proposals Received During Fifth Auction

Posted on: March 9, 2018, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: March 9, 2018, 01:50h.

No satellite casino bids were presented at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s (PGCB) Friday auction.

Pennsylvania satellite casino auction
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the state agency did not receive satellite casino bids this week. (Image: Shutterstock)

Postponed from Wednesday due to a snowstorm, the state’s six qualified remaining bidders opted against submitting proposals for the gaming facilities that are permitted to house up to 750 slot machines and 40 table games. The minimum bid is $7.5 million to receive one of the 12 authorized permits.

Four earlier auctions proved much more fruitful.

Penn National paid $50.1 million for the first so-called “mini-casino,” and chose a 15-mile radius centered in York County. Stadium Casino LLC, owners of the future Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia in the city’s Stadium District, won the second auction with a $40.1 million bid. It chose an area in Westmoreland County near Pittsburgh.

Owners of the Mount Airy Casino Resort took the third round with a $21.2 million proposal, and selected Lawrence County north of Pittsburgh. Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, parent company to Parx Casino near Philly, won the last auction by offering $8.1 million and locked Cumberland County west of Harrisburg.

The next auction is scheduled for March 21.

State Still Winning

Last fall, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf (D) authorized the 12 satellite casinos in part of a massive gambling expansion package. The legislation was aimed at helping bridge a $2.2 billion budget funding gap.

Along with the mini-casinos, the bill legalized online gambling, daily fantasy sports, set sports betting regulations, and permitted the creation of gaming lounges inside airport terminals and slot machines at certain truck stops.

The legislature assumed $100 million in upfront licensing fees from the satellites. Despite the fifth-round stall, the expansion has already generated about $119.5 million in new revenue for the state.

More cash will come regardless of the subsequent mini-casino auctions. For the venues to offer the 40 table games, operators must pony up an additional $2.5 million fee on top of their winning offers.

Casinos Bid Adieu

With zero bids presented, the satellite casino auction process now qualifies new potential bidders. The initial round was open only to Pennsylvania’s 10 full-fledged Category 1 or 2 casino licensees.

The Gaming Control Board’s “subsequent auction” round now invites the state’s two Category 3 resort casino licensees, the Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and the Valley Force Casino Resort, to enter the fray.

Should all 12 satellites fail to be awarded, the PGCB will determine whether “it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth” to hold additional auctions with non-licensed gaming operators welcomed to participate.

Las Vegas Sands, which owns Sands Bethlehem, had won the fourth auction with a $9.8 million bid. But the proposal was later tossed out after the company’s 15-mile selected radius was revealed to overlap with an earlier winning bid.

This week, Sands announced it’s selling the Bethlehem resort for $1.3 billion to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama. The tribe’s gaming subsidiary, Wind Creek Hospitality, will be eligible to bid on a satellite casino once the acquisition is approved by state regulators.