Revived Parx Mini-Casino Project In South Central PA Appears Back On Track

Written By Kevin Shelly on March 17, 2021 - Last Updated on April 5, 2021

A stalled mini-casino proposal by Parx Casino in Shippensburg Township is back on track with a replacement site which once was a Lowe’s home improvement store. An opening of the satellite casino within a year is possible.

The proposed location is at 250 South Conestoga Road in the South Central Pennsylvania borough. The property is close to PA Rt. 11 and I-81.

April 5 update: Shippensburg Township officials have signed off on a conditional use permit for the site, meaning work on the conversion is greenlighted, according to Penn Live.

The news site recently reported:

“Parx proposes to fill the Lowe’s site with 600 slot machines, as well as a nationally-branded restaurant/sports bar with seating for about 250. Projected hours are 9 a.m. through midnight Monday through Thursday, with the casino then operating around the clock from 9 a.m. Friday through midnight Sunday.”

A rendering from the company shows the regionally well-known sports bar Chickie’s & Petes as a part of the rehabbed building.

C&P already does business with Parx and is looking to expand by setting up horse racing and sports betting venues in several PA locations. A site in South Philadelphia has been controversial and is working its way through zoning review, with a community group fighting the plan.

Replacement location for mini-casino is a repurposing

As a rehab and refit, rather than a ground-up building site, the location might be able to launch within a year pending no significant delays, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) learned during a meeting Wednesday.

The PGCB meeting has for now resolved disputes over the size and cost of a required traffic impact study, a first step in moving the stalled project along. Some widening or replacement of existing roadways is a possibility.

Original mini-casino location proposal sunk

Sinkholes sank the original location near Exit 29 of I-81. Much of the Cumberland Valley sits atop limestone, prone to subsidence accelerated by acid rain eating away the soft stone understructure.

Parx’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Oppenheimer told PennLive in July 2019:

“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.”

There had been no subsequent public discussion of any alternative location for the mini-casino until today.

When Shippensburg first was named the Parx mini location in 2018, a 2020 opening was projected.

Next step is a hearing

Spokesman Doug Harbach said the next step toward approval for the PGCB is to hold a public input hearing in the town. There is no firm date yet.

Stewart said his client, technically named GW Cumberland OP Co., is ready, and Parx hopes the meeting can happen this spring.

The vacant Lowe’s is about 140,00 square feet and sits on 21 acres. It is 2.5 miles from a PA state university with 8,000 students, more than the borough population. Several national lodging chains are nearby.

“We’re confident it is a good site,” said Stewart. He added the redevelopment of the site should make the opening swifter than building. He added the site already has adequate parking.

Lowe’s shuttered the site, built for $18.5 million, in 2018 after a decade of operation. About 20 stores nationwide closed then. All were near other Lowe’s locations.

Mini-casino track record

Satellite casinos have not turned out exactly as planned in PA, which was hungry for more license sales, fees, and gaming revenue.

The enabling law passed back in 2017. The law allowed 10 mini-casino licenses for auction.

PA held five auctions. The initial sales brought in $127.7 million. Then the market said enough, and there was no bid for the sixth possible license.

Despite that, a new auction was held at the legislature’s direction, and once again, there was no bid.

Next, a license approval for Mount Airy Casino got yanked.

Then that newly available license went up for auction again. The winning bid came from Philly financier Ira Lubert for just more than $10 million. Lubert partnered with Bally’s Casino in January and aimed to site the property near State College.

Meanwhile, the only open mini is Live! Casino Pittsburgh. The property, a rehabbed mall space, opened in November.

And another two minis owned by Penn National Gaming are finally getting attention after work stopped due to the pandemic.

Lead image via Dreamstime.

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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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