Penn National Needs Another Satellite Casino, But Mercer Co Isn’t The Answer

Posted on January 22, 2018

Penn National may have dropped $50 million for its first satellite casino, but the mini-casino may turn out to be more of a chess piece than a tourist destination. If Penn National is lucky, it could be both.

Penn National very tactically picked a location that could provide a protective buffer zone for its satellite property and existing nearby casino to the west, Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course. This could also strategically protect some of its other properties from competition Penn National may have feared.

If following the 25-mile radius around the mini-casino and the casino itself, Penn National essentially protected itself. The distance between the two is almost exactly 50 miles. It’s also about 20 miles north of the Maryland state line. Hollywood Casino in Grantville is also just outside a 50-mile radius from Yoe County, another potential avenue of growth for Penn National.

Meanwhile, with more satellite auctions looming, Mercer County is lobbying to host a location, but the casinos it could benefit are not Penn National properties.

The closest casinos to Mercer County?

Penn National going the distance

In the midst of all of this, Penn National sued Pennsylvania, a double-edged sword that would protect the casino from unfair treatment, but also keep it in the game should it need to find a way to compete.

But Penn National has been in it for the long haul. After adding Pinnacle’s properties to its list, there was nothing holding the company back from owning both Hollywood Casino and The Meadows, but it also left a gap for Penn National to fill.

The company can still bid on a second property through The Meadows, which means it has another chess piece to play. However, the company is restricted to a site that is within range of The Meadows, not of Hollywood Casino.

In the event that a second Penn National mini casino does come to fruition, it could still be anything but “mini.” The property could hold 300-750 slot machines and up to 30 tables, all with a roughly $10 million investment in licensing fees.

Mercer County looking for increased tourism

The county, also, is experiencing sticker shock about what’s to come from these mini-casino licenses.

“We were guessing the first bid would be 10 to 15 million,” said Randy Seitz, president and CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County’s lead economic-development agency, to Allied News.

Mercer County wants what Lehigh County has, and envy is enough. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem helped the county’s economic development, gifting its bridges “100” ratings, reported Allied.

Mercer is doing what many cities did when Amazon wanted to come to town: selling itself hard. By doing so, Mercer County could rake in revenue in other ways. This could come in the form of an entertainment center, allowing for more conference space, restaurants, and more jobs that could secure a higher standard of living.

The perfect bid for the right bidder

Interested parties already inquired about the Mercer County area.

Here are the bidding stipulations:

  • The mini-casino can be located 20-30 miles away but must be within 50 miles of an existing casino
  • Business reps must present a bid and a set of coordinates with county and municipality listed.
  • Bids awarded allow businesses to build the mini-casino within a 15-mile radius of said coordinates

With those bidding stipulations, The Meadows actually falls outside of the 50-mile radius. Mercer County is north of Pittsburgh, while The Meadows is just south of the metropolis.

Mercer County listed a couple optimal locations for the mini-casino, namely shopping centers. Springfield Township, near the Grove City Premium Outlets, caters to around six million people a year.

Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage has some extra space now that Macy’s and Sears vacated.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Commission will host the next auction Jan. 24. Interested viewers can watch online on the commission’s website.

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Katie Callahan

Katie Callahan is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who covers everything from poker, business, education and politics to construction, startups and cybersecurity.

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