Parx Shippensburg Mini-Casino Hearing: Critics Speak Out Against Proposal

Written By Kevin Shelly on May 20, 2021 - Last Updated on May 31, 2021

The hearing for the new location for the proposed Parx Shippensburg mini-casino, a revamped vacant Lowe’s, began promptly, held both virtually and at the Luhrs Center of Shippensburg University in Shippensburg Township, and ran for about two hours.

Approximately 50 people attended the hearing in person on the revised application, which was held with ongoing COVID-19 measures in place.

Parx submitted an economic impact statement and a new traffic study before the hearing. Written comments totaling about 70 were submitted to gaming officials in advance.

If approved, Shippensburg will eventually be one of five mini-casinos, with one open near Pittsburgh, another coming in August, and yet another in November, as well as one proposed for the future near State College.

Parx operates the largest casino in Pennsylvania, adjacent to a thoroughbred track. It operates in a near suburb of Philadelphia, Bensalem.

The company bid a little more than $8 million for the right to develop the satellite casino in Shippensburg, a small college town in South Central Pennsylvania, not far from the Maryland border.

This is the second hearing in the township. The first location proved geologically unstable and prone to sinkholes.

Speaking for the application from Parx were:

  • John Dixon, Chief Operating Officer
  • Ron Davis, Director of Diversity & Community Development
  • Carolyn Carter, Assistant Director of Security
  • Mark Stewart, Outside Counsel for GW Cumberland Op Co

Davis began by saying, “we’re not just a box,” but an economic generator for the community, service organizations, scholarships, veterans groups, and others as he ticked off Parx’s support.

Details of the proposed Shippensburg mini-casino

The casino will open with 500 slot machines and 48 electronic table games in 73,000 square feet. A Chickie’s & Pete’s sports bar is planned, the company’s presentation showed.

Average annual salaries are more than $48,000.

Testimony of those who attended the Shippensburg hearing

Steve Oldt, the host township’s supervisor, said all Shippensburg township supervisors support the application.

Sonya Payne of The Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition asked for support to combat problem gambling issues.

Jim Rogers, a pastor who said he represented several churches, called casinos a “cancer.” He said the presence of a casino would destroy the “Hallmark small town” atmosphere of Shippensburg.

“We don’t want you here,” he forcefully said, eliciting applause from perhaps about a third of the audience.

A Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board member who conducted the hearing had to remind Rogers to put his mask back on after he spoke.

W. Mickey Nye of the Shippensburg Area Development Corp strongly refuted Roger’s negative take on the influence of casinos on employment, public safety organizations, local businesses, and organizations.

Applause for negative comments

Janet H. Rose of the Shippensburg Civic Club opposed the casino, saying real estate values near the casino will decline and the casino will draw patrons away from downtown restaurants. Applause broke out.

J. Daniel Byers, representing the Vigilant Hose Company, a volunteer organization, said his outfit had been devastated by financial issues stemming from COVID-19. He hopes to see support from the casino to assist them.

Bruce Levy, a pastor and former school principal from a county away, said it makes no sense to bring a casino to a town with a high poverty rate.

Just one speaker from the general public made a pitch for the casino

Churches don’t pay taxes observed Joshua J. Rosetta. He pointed out most of those in the audience opposed to the casino are no longer members of the workforce. He also pointed out that he gambles, does not have an addiction to wagering, and looks forward to the casino.

Anastasia A. Hummer, Wayne Gruver, Alvin M. Martin, and Patti Slozat spoke of addiction issues in their families, and all opposed the casino.

Slozat also said traffic would be a problem. Gruver complained nearby towns had not had input, as did Martin. Without any evidence, he also suggested Shippensburg politicians were somehow on the take.

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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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