[toc]Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are calling for a timeout after Mount Airy Casino received possible preferential treatment in an amendment to the gambling expansion law.
The amendment stated:
“A category 4 slot machine license may not be located in a sixth-class county which is contiguous to a county that hosts a category 2 licensed facility.”
This amendment could bring in millions for Mount Airy, a category 2 brick-and-mortar casino. It establishes a buffer almost three times that of the mini-casinos that could otherwise open in the state, reported Philly.com.
The Mount Airy carve-out – Keeping other casinos at a distance
While mini-casinos must be at least 25 miles from the larger established gambling halls, Mount Airy gets the advantage here.
This amendment effectively keeps mini-casinos from Carbon, Pike, and Wayne Counties.
Assessing the amendment – who’s responsible?
How this got into the legislation at all remains a mystery to local lawmakers.
The lobbying firm that represents Mount Airy did worry about the bill and lobby for a larger buffer zone, but not something as specific as this, according to Steve Crawford, the firm’s president.
State Rep. Maureen Madden represents the district that includes the casino. She voted for the measure and said that she wanted to make sure the casino thrived, but recognizes that it may inconvenience other stakeholders.
“I understand that there are always winners and losers in every piece of legislation,” she told Philly.com.
Lawmakers criticize ‘special treatment’
Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks voted against the legislation.
“Something smells here,” he said to Philly.com. “Why are we giving special treatment to one casino?”
In the meantime, Rozzi said Penn National (owner of Hollywood Casino) is researching legal options, given the disadvantage.
Nearby casinos bank off each other
Even so, Mount Airy may not be the only benefactor. Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh borders Armstrong, a sixth-class county.
This amendment allows casinos to avoid their mini competitors. It also extends their distance of protection by being close to each other.
One example of this is Harrah’s in Chester, which has a total range of 127 miles.
Mount Airy wasn’t the only casino worried about the legislation pulling revenue away, but it does sit at seventh in the state in terms of revenue. The casino collected $190 million last fiscal year.
Mount Airy has a contentious past, full of organized crime, relinquished leadership, and GOP investment from its millionaire founder Louis DeNaples.
But the casino also has some other factors in play. As gambling continues to expand, it could continue to benefit, especially in the online realm.
Social casino and online gaming protect future
Mount Airy announced some partnerships this year that could hint at its future intentions. In March, the casino revealed a deal with Greentube for a social casino platform that would mirror its brick-and-mortar offerings in a social casino product with free play.
This solution encouraged mobile and internet players, as well as iTV players, to come into the iGaming scene in PA.
Given its reach across the states, it was only a matter of time before 888 entered Pennsylvania. Already an operator in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, 888 Holdings teamed up with Mount Airy in April 2015 to provide online gaming.
Even if the waters are still murky as far as what expanded online gambling includes – and those who try to stop it – iGaming keeps Mount Airy increasingly competitive and profitable.
Other brick-and-mortar casinos already joined the iGaming bandwagon back in 2015, but with these new rules, it will finally be time to find out if that pays out.
Even more gambling expansion coming
Mount Airy and Mohegan Sun Pocono are eligible to provide satellite casinos. The bids to license them start at $7.5 million. Table game certificates boost that cost to $9.5 million for 750 more slots and 30 table games.
According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Mount Airy maintains 1,868 slots and 81 table games. Comparatively, Mohegan Sun possesses 2,332 slot machines and 91 table games.
Already, as mentioned, both operate online casino options. Gains for these efforts could be roughly $100 million for the state for license fees. Otherwise, it’s just off revenue coming in.
“Past that initial revenue, we expect that the state will generate tens of millions in annual tax revenue from online casino and poker play,” said Chris Grove, a gambling industry analyst at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, to Pocono Record. “A precise number is difficult to pin down simply because Pennsylvania’s tax rate for regulated online gambling is virtually unprecedented.”