Back on Track: Construction Resumes on Penn National York Mini-Casino

Posted on November 12, 2020 - Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Work has resumed at the Penn National mini-casino under development in a vacant mall space near York, Pennsylvania.

The York Dispatch first reported the resumption in Springettsbury Township. Completion is expected in 2021.

Work halted in mid-March due to pandemic restrictions. But even after restrictions were eased, workers were not called back to the project, which was seen as an economic boon. That was also the case for the mini-casino being built from the ground up for Penn in Morgantown, Berks County.

First PA mini-casino to open this month in Western PA

While there’s no word on resuming work at Morgantown, the York area project is finally moving ahead. It will be the second mini-casino, or Category 4 casino, in a rehabbed mall space, with Live! Pittsburgh set for an official opening on Nov. 24.

“Construction is resuming, and we expect to open the facility in the second half of 2021,” Jeff Morris of Penn National told the Dispatch.

Additionally, roadwork near the York Galleria Mall is now completed, making for a better Whiteford Road entrance.

Township official Don Bishop praised Penn, saying:

“We had a great deal of confidence in Penn National Gaming throughout the pandemic. They were in a really tough spot, but they continue to keep us up to date. We are very pleased that they are continuing with the project.”

Penn has a major investment in the York mini-casino project

The company bid $50 million in 2018 to buy the mini-casino license at auction.

Penn, which struggled earlier in the year, is on a bit of a roll based on the performance of its recently launched Barstool Sportsbook app, which is only available within the borders of PA for now.

But the company just unveiled its very first Barstool retail sportsbook in Colorado, and it plans to launch more retail and online apps in the coming months.

Barstool could be part of the York mini-casino plan

The company has not said if a retail Barstool book is part of the plan for York.

Penn paid $163 million for a 36% stake in Barstool in January and has the right to buy up to 50% of the company.

During an earnings call in late October, Penn CFO Dave Williams credited Barstool for much of the company’s positioning and also touched on the mini-casinos:

“We are confident that our improved balance sheet provides ample liquidity to support high-return projects in our land-based business, such as the new and rebranded retail Barstool Sportsbook and the further rollout of our interactive products.

“Finally, in terms of our capital expenditures this year, we’re continuing to be very disciplined despite all but one of our properties being reopened. We spent $21.5 million on maintenance capex in Q3 and approximately $2 million on project capex related to our Category 4 casinos in Morgantown and York. We’re resuming construction on these projects and anticipate both opening in the second half of 2021.”

Stock recovers, PA ties are strengthened

The high for $PENN stock over the last year was $76.62. The low was $3.75 (when pandemic closures first hit). The stock recently has been in the low $60s.

Barstool’s Dave Portnoy has embraced PA, which houses Penn’s headquarters, reviewing pizza joints and talking up sports in the commonwealth.

He and Penn even got behind a GoFundMe campaign to support the Reading Terminal Market in Center City Philly. The nonprofit market, which opened in 1893, has had a huge drop in foot traffic due to the coronavirus. It needs help paying utility bills and funding frequent cleaning per CDC guidelines so it can stay open. The fund now has more than $206,900 of a $250,000 goal.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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