Did Parx’s Mini-Casino Plans Just Fall Down A Sinkhole?

Written By Kevin Shelly on July 26, 2019 - Last Updated on August 9, 2022

The likelihood of sinkholes may sink the location for a proposed Parx mini-casino in Shippensburg, near Exit 29 of I-81.

PennLive reported this week geological testing threw doubt on the geologic stability of the proposed location, which had already been approved by township officials.

According to a recent state Geological Survey publication, a sinkhole is:

“A subsidence feature in an area underlain by carbonate bedrock. It can form rapidly and is characterized by a distinct break in the land surface and the downward movement of surface materials into the resulting hole or cavity.”

The same publication contains a map showing a huge swath of South Central Pennsylvania, including Shippensburg, which has rock formation more commonly known as limestone, making it prone to sinkholes.

Caves dot the region as a result. Acidic rain formed by pollution has accelerated the prevalence of sinkholes. The rain seeps into fissures and rapidly dissolves the supporting bedrock.

Mini-casino location faced ‘significant issues’

There are numerous news accounts of sinkholes in the area, including a 15-foot fissure 20 years ago on a lane of  I-81 in Shippensburg.

Most sinkholes in the region are small nuisances, often on roadways because of the compaction caused by traffic. Concrete can fill, seal, and stabilize the smaller holes. However, buildings are sometimes ruled unsafe and razed due to large sinkholes.

PennLive also cited growing concern over large trucks, which would share an access road with the casino site.

“There were significant issues that developed with the original site. We are currently working with the Shippensburg community and leaders to identify alternatives in the community,” Parx’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Oppenheimer told PennLive.

He declined additional comment to the news site. The status of the approved location is unclear.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) said Parx had not discussed the site issues with regulators. An alternative location would likely require a new public hearing, added the spokesman.

Two additional Parx mini-casino sites were nixed

Parx had pursued two previous sites without success. One was in Carlisle, while the other was in South Middleton Township.

Parent company Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment planned 475 slot machines, 40 table game seats, and a sports betting lounge for the location.

Local officials want a new site in the township.

Additional mini-casinos in the pipeline and on the auction block

PA has five approved mini-casino locations, including the Parx location.

To date, just one location in Hollywood Casino Morgantown, also in South Central Pennsylvania, appears to be moving along.

The mini-casino category came with a gaming expansion law passed in October 2017. The legislation allowed for up to 10 new Class 4 casinos with 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games.

The original law allowed 10 mini-casinos. Five of the licenses drew no bids. The PGCB recently set in motion a new attempt to sell the remaining licenses at a series of auctions beginning Sept. 4.

The first five satellite casino auctions generated a whopping total of $127 million in licensing fees for the state.

Bidding for the remaining licenses stopped in April 2018.

Once a new auction results in no bids, there will be no further attempts to sell any remaining licenses.

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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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