Four months ago, Carlisle borough council voted 4 to 2 to opt-out of hosting a satellite casino as part of Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion legislation.
Even so, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment has set their sights on the city that sits just outside of Harrisburg. It will be an uphill battle for the company that currently operates Parx Casino in Bucks County.
Pleading its mini-casino case before the borough council
The legislation that makes provisions for municipalities to opt-out of hosting a property also allows those same municipalities to change their minds.
Greenwood will make a presentation to the borough council on May 2. The workshop meeting is open to the public and will start at 6 p.m.
Presenting to the council is surely a sign of interest in the Carlisle sight for a future satellite casino. The presentation will also provide Greenwood with insight into the amount of community support for hosting a casino. An unusual move considering the recent vote to opt-out.
It’s unclear if Carlisle officials and its residents are willing to reverse its current opt-out status. Needless to say, there are both proponents and opponents to the possibility of becoming a host city.
A casino in Carlisle pits those that believe the character of the community is at stake against those that see the advantages of the potential tax revenue.
Two council members, Sean Shultz and Deb Fulham-Winston, voiced strong support for opting-out. Members Sean Crampsie and Robin Guido voted against the opt-out resolution.
During its presentation, Greenwood and Parx will attempt to sway members and residents that are open to hearing about what Greenwood has in store. The company is hoping that a solid plan to provide jobs, tax revenue, and a new community partner is attractive enough to encourage the council to reverse course.
What makes Carlisle so attractive to Parx
Carlisle is the county seat of Cumberland County. Greenwood had its eye on the area around Cumberland since February when it was successful in securing a bid for one of the mini-casino licenses.
Cumberland County is attractive to the operator because of Interstate 81 and the population growth in the area.
There are other sites along the I-81 corridor inside of Greenwood’s circle, the area already licensed for the mini-casino. Many of those communities also opted-out or prohibit the sale of alcohol for commercial use.
Carlisle sits outside of Greenwood’s circle. There is talk that Greenwood is interested in the Bon-Ton store at The Point at Carlisle Plaza Mall. The Milwaukee-based retailer filed for bankruptcy in February and its Carlisle store is set to close.
A big-box store that is practically move-in ready will allow Greenwood to get its mini-casino up and running quickly.
Greenwood has more hurdles than just the Carlisle borough council
It is interesting to see Greenwood going after a second site and expressing interest in a town that has opted-out. The big question is why now – especially when they had the perfect opportunity to secure a license for the area without opposition.
The most recent auction on April 18 resulted in no bidders, which effectively closed round two of the auction. There are still five licenses still available.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) indicated there is a possibility of a third round of auctions.
A third auction round is not a certainty, though. If the PGCB decides to open the third round, both current casino license holders and entities that do not hold a license in the state will be able to bid.
The PGCB will need to vet any new bidders before holding an additional round, which will take some time.
Based on appearances, Greenwood and Parx are betting there will be a third round of auctions and the company is preparing to take part.
Marc Oppenheimer, Parx’s chief marketing officer, told PennLive that no preferred locations have been identified. He also said that choosing a site “is an ongoing process.”
In this case, ongoing means trying to reverse a municipality’s opt-out status.