Cordish Aims To Expand Live! Casino Presence in PA With Mini-Casino License Bid

Posted on July 13, 2020 - Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Cordish Companies, Baltimore-based parent company of the Live! Casino brand building gaming halls near Pittsburgh and adjacent to Philadelphia sports stadiums, plans to up the ante and try for a third Pennsylvania property.

Cordish plans a bid for a newly-available mini-casino license

A company spokesperson exclusively told PlayPennsylvania that they intend to make a bid on Sept. 2 for a mini-casino license which recently became available.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced on July 8 that they will auction off the license once held by Mount Airy Casino before the start of their Sept. 2 meeting. The opening bid is $7.5 million.

Mount Airy was denied a mini-casino license

The license is available because back in November the PGCB denied the approval of the license which Mount Airy had paid $21.9 million for at the start of 2018. They get only a 75% refund.

Mount Airy cited financing issues.

But a news site, the BeaverCountian.com, reported the delay may have been attributable to a slow-going investigation of former Mount Airy owner Louis DeNaples. He allegedly attended several planning meetings related to the proposed site. DeNaples has alleged mob ties and is banned from working with the casino.

Work continues on Western PA mini-casino

Plans for the bid come as the family-owned company preps for the fall opening of Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, at a rehabbed vacant mall site.

While work there had ceased for about two months at the height of the virus pandemic, the spokesperson said a fall opening remains “on track.”

First mini-casino

When it opens, it will be the very first mini-casino, or Category 4 Casino, in the state.

In 2017, PA lawmakers passed legislation allowing for an expansion of up to 10 new mini-licenses in parts of the state not served by larger gambling facilities.

But that partially fizzled when no more offers came to the auction table after only five licenses were claimed.

Projects appear star-crossed

And meanwhile, four of the mini-casinos have proven a bit star-crossed.

Mount Airy’s site, proposed for Big Beaver, northwest of Pittsburgh, is dead and the license up for grabs.

Work on mini-casinos in York and Morgantown, with licenses held by Penn National Gaming, also halted during the pandemic but have not resumed. The company has not said when it will resume construction. But their CEO recently nixed bidding on the newly available license.

A Shippensburg site chosen by Parx Casino is unsuitable because of geological issues. Parx has never named a new site.

Only mini-casino in the pipeline

That leaves the western Live! Casino property as the only project moving along now.

The property includes 750 slots, approximately 30 live-action table games, and a retail sportsbook.

The Cordish spokesperson said in a written statement Monday:

“Live! will be a first-class facility with the look, feel and amenities of a full-fledged casino, including the best in slots and table games, and exciting and unique food and entertainment amenities. It will showcase that a “mini casino,” done properly, can compare with any casino, and have an atmosphere and energy that will let it compete with the best the state has to offer.”

Live! sponsoring dealer training school

To prepare for the opening, Live! is sponsoring the Westmoreland County Community College dealer school, scheduled to begin August 17.

Graduates will staff the new $150 million Live! Casino. There will be 500 permanent new jobs for locals.  More than 100 of those positions are for table games dealers.

The school is meant to train qualified applicants with the necessary skills needed in the gaming industry and provide the opportunity to interview for a dealer position at Live! Casino.

Westmoreland is hosting a series of information sessions for those interested in learning more. Dates, locations, and sign-up information are available here.

There are no walk-ins. Information sessions are free, but the cost of the school and curriculum is $110 per student for Blackjack training and an additional $75 for other games.

Work on Live! in Philly continues

Meanwhile, work is progressing on the Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia project, according to the spokesperson. PlayPA recently got a good look at the progress made.

The projected opening was just before the end of the year.

“Together, the two projects represent a nearly $1 billion commitment to the Commonwealth and to bringing a new standard for casinos across the region. We are also excited for the opportunity to bid on the license that will be available in September, and the potential to invest further and create more jobs in the Commonwealth.”

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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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