First, it was Westmoreland County. Now York County may be next.
Penn National, one of four groups to win licenses for satellite casinos, narrowed down the locations to four different spots in York County, one of which is the first floor of a soon-to-be-closed Sears in York Galleria, the area’s flagship retail location.
As a result, township leaders held a public hearing to get the opinions of local residents about the possible mall location.
According to local publication York Daily Record, the meeting did not go well. Not a single resident spoke up in favor of the satellite casino.
Local residents voice their displeasure
The York Daily Record included some quotes from the public hearing. Here is one of them:
“I don’t know why in the world the board would opt in to allow a casino in our wonderful township. I think that’s just a huge mistake, period.”
Apparently, the township’s council initially opted out of hosting a casino. However, after some research, the council concluded it was a good idea and voted 4-1 to become a candidate for satellite casinos.
But now, with the prospects of a Penn National satellite casino looming, the public opinion doesn’t seem to be matching the council’s decision.
York County residents aren’t the only ones fighting new casinos
Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., owners of Parx Casino in Philadelphia, are working on their plans for building a mini-casino in Cumberland County.
After failing to gain the favor the residents of Carlisle, they pushed for a location in neighboring South Middleton Township.
And, according to Penn Live, the tables of public opinion were just as cold there as they were in Carlisle.
The following paragraph from Penn Live describes the scene well:
“The majority of the approximately 75 community members who packed the township meeting room … appeared to hold passionate sentiments not unlike their next-door neighbors, saying it didn’t fit the character of their township. They were skeptical, they added, of casino officials’ promises of millions in local economic revenue and its proposed plans to curb ‘problem gambling’ and crime that many believe would be associated with the site.”
Their argument is one of the classics from the album that is the greatest hits of anti-casino sentiment. Right or wrong, they indicate that, while public sentiment has swung in favor of sports betting, there are enclaves across the country who still see gambling is a Hydra-like evil.
The conservative nature of their argument — that gambling does not reflect the township’s “character” — may be the outworking of the county’s overall political makeup. According to USElectionAtlas.org, the county was a decisively blue state in the most recent presidential election.
Did casinos anticipate the opposition?
The four casinos who won licenses for mini-casinos certainly had to know that there would be some pushback. However, it’s hard to know if Greenwood, for example, expected the distaste in back-to-back townships.
In general, the movement seems to be toward the easiest possible solution. Penn National and Stadium Casino LLC have made moves to put their mini-casinos in malls. Taking advantage of an existing structure should save them millions in construction costs.
However, only Stadium has nailed down their plans; Penn National is meeting resistance and Parx is still hunting.