This Week in PA: York Mini-Casino Approved, Online Poker Prospects, SugarHouse Slammed with Fines

Posted on December 21, 2019

Next year around this time it could be a quite a different scene at the site of the former Sears at the York Galleria Mall. No, the bankrupt retailer isn’t making a comeback.

Penn National received final licensing approval to open a mini-casino at the York Galleria Mall in Springettsbury Township. It’s the third approved mini-casino in PA (two of which will be at malls).

The mini-casino is one of a number of news items to come out of Wednesday’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting.

Details of new Hollywood mini-casino

The final stamp of approval comes two years after Penn National paid $50 million, the highest for a mini-casino license, during PGCB auctions.

PGCB Director of Communication Doug Harbach said:

“It’s been very thorough and we took a while. We made sure all the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted for these types of projects. We do think that these will be good anchors for locations that have lost a lot of retail business. The Board has looked at all evidence on this and was in the community to get input. We’ve seen across the Commonwealth casinos have been very good generators for tax revenue ($1.4 billion per year) and jobs (16,000 jobs).”

Plans for Hollywood Casino York include:

  • 80,000 sq. ft. location
  • 500 slot machines and 24 table games
  • Ability to accommodate up to 750 slot machines and 40 table games
  • A sports and racebook
  • Casual restaurant and bar, lounge with small stage, and a coffee venue

Online poker pops in PA with successful PACOOP

The appetite for online poker in PA is real. After months of waiting (and tweeting), online poker is here. And Pennsylvanians’ appetite for it is hearty.

The recent PACOOP is proof of just that. The PACOOP Main Event produced the largest prize pool of the series with $179,200 being paid out.

Some other numbers to consider:

  • PACOOP Main event crushed its guarantee by $54,200, the largest margin of all fifty events.
  • PACOOP events saw 9,032 players, 13,456 entries and awarded $1,559,767 in prize money.
  • PokerStars PA rake and tournament fees nearly hit $2 million in November.
  • Oh, and on the morning of Dec. 20, with just four shopping days left, PokerStars PA had 522 seats filled, which dwarfed the 157 in NJ.

Harbach commented on PA’s early online poker numbers and what’s ahead:

“There is no doubt that a solid base of players awaited online poker in the Commonwealth. Certainly, in 2020 we should see more options for online poker beyond the single site now available. There are a half dozen other casinos besides Mount Airy with PokerStars which paid a fee to offer online poker so it is anticipated that others will launch in 2020.”
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SugarHouse slapped with fines for underage gambling

Rivers Casino Philadelphia received a $62,500 fine for multiple incidents of underage gambling.

Feb 2018

Security officers stopped an underage woman after she presented a fraudulent driver’s license as identification. PA State Police did not charge her because she did not enter the casino. Security issued her a formal eviction notice. However, the Bureau of Casino Compliance conducted a review and a surveillance check revealed she was able to gain entrance to the casino on four previous dates using a fake ID.

Security guards either missed or ignored when scanning the ID. She played blackjack, slots, was served alcoholic beverages and obtained a Rush Rewards card. She was able to cash out six times over the course of four days.

Sept. 2018

An underage patron gained access when a security guard did not ask for ID. He played at slot machines and then stole a voucher from another patron. Before he left the casino, he stopped to cash the stolen voucher. He was identified by the patron whose voucher was stolen and taken into custody and charged with robbery.

Feb. 2019

An underage patron entered the casino while security guards were engaged in conversation with each other and did not request ID. The underage patron played craps for eight hours then was confronted by a table games supervisor who requested ID. He presented a driver’s license which belonged to someone else. PA State Police issued a citation and security guards issued him an eviction notice.

After listing the incidents, reps from Rivers Casino Philadelphia introduced a new Director of Compliance, Angela Hardesty, and Director of Security, Walter Gunn.

“As new employees there is nothing much we can ask you about these events. Welcome aboard and we hope to see you rarely,” said PGCB Chairman David Barasch.

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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