PGCB Finally Answers The Question: Can Mini-Casinos Have Sportsbooks?

Written By J.R. Duren on October 8, 2018
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If you’re near York Galleria Mall, you can shop, pull slots, play table games and, as was reported this past week, place a wager.

All these facets of the future site of Penn National’s Hollywood York satellite casino could be a reality. The casino company announced that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) says a land-based sportsbook at a satellite casino is permissible, albeit speculative, at this point.

Doug Harbach, communications director at the PGCB, told the York Dispatch that, like anything else, Penn National will have to go through the proper channels to get the sportsbook approved.

“They would have to come back in the future to seek approval of a sports book at a Category 4 casino,”  Harbach said. “There is no time frame on that, so any decision by Penn National could be well into the future.”

Satellites and sports betting an expensive proposition

The original plan for satellite casinos, as outlined in the 2017 Pennsylvania gambling expansion bill (Act 42), was to allow up to 10 new mini-casinos that had a maximum of 750 slots and 30 table games in the first year of operations.

When the bill passed into law late this past year, the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had not happened yet.

Though experts carried a certain amount optimism about the legalization of sports betting, it was not a certainty at the time.

Despite that, PA lawmakers had enough foresight to include some basic provisions for sports betting, including a $10 million license fee and a 36 percent tax rate.

Now, we’re starting to see casinos hint at providing sportsbooks at their satellite locations and not their Category 1 and Category 2 locations.

Satellite casinos make this interesting because casinos are already investing significant funds into either building a satellite from the ground up or renovating an existing space, as is the case with Penn National’s mall casino at York Galleria in Springettsbury Township.

Mini-casinos can use parent casino sports betting license

According to the York Township, Penn National is planning to spend up to $120 million to renovate the mall space that Sears previously occupied. They’ll also pay more than $50 million in licensing fees.

The benefit of a Hollywood Casino York sportsbook is mostly location. Its central Pennsylvania location is an area of the state where there are not many casino options.

With so much money on the line for PA casinos, dropping another $10 million on a sports betting petition in addition to forking over 36 percent of your sportsbook or mobile win is a huge drawback. However, it sounds like the Category 4 casinos need to seek approval, but, like South Philadelphia Turf Club, the property can get approved under its parent casino’s license.

Penn National has two satellite licenses

The PGCB made satellite casino licenses available through a secret-ballot style series of auctions in which the state’s existing casinos could place a secret bid on a license along with an approximate location where they want to build.

Those auctions started in January. Penn National won the first license with a bid of $50,100,000 for their York County location.

They won their second license in April, paying $7,500,003 for a location in Lancaster County. Their double-dip made them the first casino in the state with multiple satellite licenses.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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