Pennsylvania regulators on Wednesday approved Penn National Gaming’s proposed satellite casino in Berks County to attract gamblers from Philadelphia’s growing western suburbs, the first of five so-called mini-casinos licensed under a 2017 law expanding gambling.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to grant a license for the Hollywood Casino Morgantown, which abuts a Pennsylvania Turnpike exit just beyond the Chester County border. Penn National aims to begin operations in Morgantown in late 2020.

Mini-casino

exclusion zone

Municipalities choosing

to ban mini casinos

Mini casinos

Casinos

81

N

MILES

0

25

84

79

80

476

Hollywood

Casino

Morgantown

76

70

81

95

The First Pa. Mini-Casino Gets State Approval

The 2017 expansion of Pennsylvania’s gaming law allowed existing casinos to construct satellite casinos.

The new “mini-casinos” — each can contain up to 750 slot machines — could not be built within 25 miles* of a competitor’s existing casino. More than 1,000 of the state’s 2,500 municipalities opted out of hosting mini-casinos.

What remained were a limited number of high-traffic locations in permissible municipalities and outside of exclusion zones. The state last year awarded five licenses for mini-casinos.

Exclusion zone for

Valley Forge Casino

BERKS

COUNTY

Hollywood

Casino

Morgantown

176

10

76

23

LANCASTER

COUNTY

76

CHESTER

COUNTY

10

N

322

MILES

0

2

* The legislation also banned new gaming halls in Carbon, Pike, and Wayne counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

JOHN DUCHNESKIE / Staff Artist

The First Pa. Mini-Casino

Gets State Approval

The 2017 expansion of Pennsylvania’s gaming law allowed existing casinos to construct satellite casinos. The new “mini-casinos” — each can contain up to 750 slot machines — could not be built within 25 miles* of a competitor’s existing casino. More than 1,000 of the state’s 2,500 municipalities opted out of hosting mini-casinos. What remained were a limited number of high-traffic locations in permissible municipalities and outside of exclusion zones. The state last year awarded five licenses for mini-casinos.

Mini-casino

exclusion zone

Casinos

Municipalities choosing

to ban mini casinos

Mini

casinos

1

6

7

1

8

2

5

2

3

5

10

9

3

4

11

12

4

Casinos

Presque Isle

Mount Airy

1

7

Rivers

Sands

2

8

Meadows

Valley Forge

3

9

Lady Luck

Parx

4

10

Hollywood

SugarHouse

5

11

Mohegan Sun

Harrah’s

6

12

Mini casinos

Mt. Airy Pittsburgh

Hollywood Casino

York

1

4

Live! Casino

2

Hollywood Casino

Morgantown

(Detail map below)

5

Parx Casino

Shippensburg

3

* The legislation also banned new gaming halls in Carbon, Pike, and Wayne counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Exclusion zone

for Valley Forge

Casino

MILES

N

0

2

Hollywood

Casino

Morgantown

BERKS COUNTY

10

176

76

5

23

LANCASTER

COUNTY

76

CHESTER

COUNTY

10

322

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

JOHN DUCHNESKIE / Staff Artist

The proposed $110 million, 86,000-square-foot casino would be about half the size of the flagship Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. It will contain 750 slot machines and 30 table games, the maximum allowed under the 2017 law that permits casinos to open satellite operations no closer than 25 miles from existing casinos. It will also include a sports betting area, restaurants, and bars, but no poker room.

Some residents in the politically conservative area, on the edge of Lancaster County and Amish country, objected to the casino as an insult to a deeply religious community. But elected officials from Berks County and Caernarvon Township, which includes Morgantown, characterized the opponents as a small minority, most of whom live outside Caenarvon.

Township officials saw an opportunity to capture host-community tax benefits for its 4,000 residents that otherwise might go to a neighboring municipality. Penn National estimates Caernarvon would get $1.6 million annually in new tax revenue, or about 62 percent of the town’s current $2.6 million budget.

Penn National, based in Wyomissing, Pa., began with a single Dauphin County racetrack and has transformed into a publicly traded firm with 30,000 employees and 41 properties nationwide. It already has paid a $7.5 million license fee to the state to locate a satellite casino in the area.

Mini-casinos are only one aspect of Pennsylvania’s expanded gaming law that will bring gambling much closer to communities like Morgantown. The 2017 law also legalized sports betting, video-game terminals in truck stops, online gaming, and internet lotteries. The state’s iLottery launched last year, and interactive casino gambling will start in July.

The new law authorized the state’s 13 licensed casinos to apply for up to 10 satellite casino licenses, as long as the new facilities were no closer than 25 miles from an existing casino. More than 1,000 of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities opted out of hosting a satellite casino by a deadline at the end of 2017.

Under a sealed bidding process last year, five licenses for satellite casinos — technically, they’re called “Category 4” casinos — were awarded before no more bids were received. The state received nearly $128 million just for the five licenses.

Penn National won bids to build two satellite casinos — the other will be in the York Galleria Mall. Stadium Casino LLC, whose flagship casino in South Philadelphia is under construction, will build one in the Westmoreland Mall outside Pittsburgh. Mount Airy Casino Resort won the rights to place a satellite casino north of Pittsburgh. And Parx Casino in Bensalem plans to build a satellite casino in Shippensburg, just off I-81.