Hollywood York Mini-Casino Eyes Expansion Ahead of August 2021 Opening

Written By Kevin Shelly on June 15, 2021 - Last Updated on June 21, 2021

Hollywood Casino York hasn’t even opened its doors let alone turned on the slot machines or dealt a hand of Blackjack. But it hasn’t stopped parent company Penn National Gaming (PNG) from exploring expanding its footprint to the second-floor space at the Galleria Mall.

PlayPennsylvania exclusively learned about Penn National eyeing expansion for the mini-casino which is scheduled to open in August.

PNG has discussed leasing the empty second-floor space above its nearly completed ground-level rehab in Springettsbury Township. Hollywood York already has a small presence on the second floor of the mall. It’s an entryway leading down to the casino level. Workers are fashioning the space this week.

Penn National retained a real estate broker for mini-casino expansion

According to a leasing agent, Penn National has retained commercial real estate agent Bryan Cole, whose office is just steps away from the headquarters of PNG in Wyomissing, PA, to negotiate on their behalf for the second-floor space.

Neither Cole nor Eric Schippers, PNG SVP of Public Affairs, has responded to requests for comment.

The listing brochure for the available second-level space by TRUE Commercial Real Estate in Lancaster describes the vacant mall space:

Upper Level Former Sears: 70,000 +/- SF prominent anchor space available for lease. Space is directly above proposed Hollywood Casino with frontage on the upper level facing south to US-30 and Whiteford Road, as well as signage opportunities on the upper level West side facing Target, Kohl’s, and Michaels. The space can be divided and include new exterior storefronts with updated facades. Hollywood Casino will have an upper level exterior entrance with vertical transportation down to the main lobby from the Western corner of this space. Ample parking exists with over 700 parking spaces directly in front of this box.

Some local officials heard of Hollywood York Casino expansion plans

Springettsbury Township Manager Mark Hodgkinson heard about PNG’s interest in the second-floor mall space.

Another area official added detail. Two people who do work for the township have been consulted about the plan. One has visited the site, said the source. Neither of the employees has responded to requests for comment.

The local official said the ground floor re-do is essentially completed. He added Hollywood is now working toward setting up test run dates for the casino, essential for gaining Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approval for their official opening.

So far, PNG only said via social media the opening date is targeted for “late August.” Hollywood Casino York will be the first of Penn’s eastern properties with a retail Barstool Sportsbook.

Charles A. Wurster, Springettsbury Township Supervisor, said he was not aware of plans from PNG to develop the second floor. He added:

“I do welcome further development of the Galleria Mall in a manner that attracts additional tourists and retail activity to Springettsbury Township. It sounds logical that Penn National would consider using that space given their investment in the facility, though I have not seen any proposals for that space at this this time.”

Penn National to appear before the PGCB for a related hearing

The company has a hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on June 16. The hearing is regarding plans for table games at Hollywood Casino York. So, the subject may come up in a public forum.

Penn won’t need further approval from regulators if a build-out at the York mini-casino is only for restaurants or entertainment. Adding gaming space would require additional approval from the PGCB.

PNG bid a winning, but whopping, $50.1 million in Jan. 2019 for the right to build a Category 4 casino. It represented the single-largest amount paid for a mini-casino location. The table games approval was an additional $2.5 million.

PNG makes major moves in South Central PA

Since PNG won the first bid for a mini-casino in the state, they had the advantage of choosing a location. At the time of the winning bid, Schippers said it would protect PNG’s flagship PA property, Hollywood Casino in Grantville.

Schippers told Online Poker Report in Jan. 2019:

“We’re happy to be the winning bidder. However…we’re not happy to have to be in the situation of paying this much to help protect our flank at Hollywood Casino.

The Gaming Act put us in the perverse position of having to essentially bid against ourselves to protect our market share in Central Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, we think the area we’ve selected will provide us the best opportunity to play both defense and offense in terms of maximizing our combined investment in Pennsylvania and we’ll be seeking to generate incremental value for our shareholders.”

Hollywood Casino Morgantown also in the works

PNG also paid $7.5 million for a second mini-casino site in April 2019. Hollywood Casino Morgantown is likely to open in Nov. 2021, further shoring up the company’s southern flank.

Work on both York and Morgantown faced huge delays due to COVID-19 issues, and also for a time, related revenue and cash flow issues. Work had stopped in mid-March 2020 due to the virus, but finally resumed in Nov. 2020.

Given the huge amounts of money PNG has already invested, maximizing its footprint makes sense for the company, several gaming sources told PlayPennsylvania.

Lead image c/o Hollywood Casino York.

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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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