Nearly four years after it paid more than $8 million to open a mini-casino in south central Pennsylvania, the owner of Parx Casino on Wednesday was awarded a license to open a satellite casino in a shuttered Lowe’s home-improvement store in Shippensburg.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a license for a subsidiary of Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., to build the Parx facility in Shippensburg Township, Cumberland County. The 73,000-square-foot casino, which will occupy about half the former big-box store, will be a scaled-down version of Parx’s casino in Bensalem, the state’s top casino by revenue.
The $65 million renovation is to begin next month, and the facility is scheduled to open in November, John Dixon, Greenwood’s chief operating officer, told the gaming board during a hearing in Harrisburg. The casino will contain 500 slot machines — the Bensalem flagship casino has more than 3,000 slots — and electronic table games such as blackjack, baccarat, and roulette, but only with remote dealers.
Parx said it plans to apply for a sports-betting license for the site in the future.
The Shippensburg Parx is the fourth of five mini-casinos licensed under Pennsylvania’s 2017 gaming expansion, which extended the availability of casino gambling and wagering to all corners of the state by legalizing online gaming, video game terminals in truck stops, and the mini-casinos, which are officially called Category 4 casinos.
The Shippensburg Township supervisors in April voted 3-0 to support the project, which Parx estimates will generate $1.8 million in local gaming tax revenue and employ 125 people permanently. The project generated opposition from local anti-gambling advocates at a hearing last May, including concerns that the casino would attract underaged patrons from the nearby Shippensburg University.
The Parx project has undergone a laborious passage since Greenwood Gaming won the auction and chose the site near Shippensburg, which is located along I-81 between Carlisle and the Maryland border and hopes to attract patrons from Hagerstown, Md.
The casino’s first choice at Exit 29 on I-81 was nixed because of sinkholes, forcing Parx to shift its focus to the former Lowe’s location on South Conestoga Drive, across from a Walmart Supercenter. Because the site was developed for a large-scale retail operation, it contains ample parking and adequate road access, and state transportation experts expressed no concerns about traffic congestion.
Parx’s early renderings of the site pictured a Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurant, but Dixon said yesterday that the casino will operate all food and beverage service on its own. Chickie’s & Pete’s has a restaurant at the Bensalem property, and Parx plans to open sportsbooks at several Chickie’s & Pete’s locations, including one in Malvern that is to open Feb. 7.
Parx has not decided how to develop the unoccupied half of the former Lowe’s store. “There will be something else coming there down the road,” Dixon said.
Mini-casinos are unique to Pennsylvania. Three have opened for operations.
Cordish Cos., which operates the Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia in the Stadium District, opened the state’s first Category 4 casino in a former mall department store in Westmoreland County in 2020, called Live! Casino Pittsburgh.
Penn National Gaming, which operates casinos under the Hollywood brand, opened the state’s second mini casino in August in York, also in a former mall department store. In December, it opened the state’s third mini-casino, the Hollywood Casino Morgantown in Berks County.
Philadelphia investor Ira M. Lubert won an auction in 2020 for a fifth mini-casino site near State College, Pa., and formed a partnership with Bally’s Corp. to operate it. Cordish Cos. has challenged the auction process in Commonwealth Court, which is set for arguments in March, and it’s unclear how much the litigation will delay a resolution.