Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awards license for casino in Shippensburg

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Cumberland County is expected to get its first casino after the state gaming board approved licenses for a Parx Casino branch to be located in the former Lowe’s building in Shippensburg Township.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted Wednesday to grant final approvals for the satellite casino at 250 Conestoga Drive, which would occupy a little over half of the existing 139,410 square foot building and contain 500 slot machines, 48 electronic table games, a restaurant and sports bar.

The holder of the license is GW Cumberland Op Co., an LLC that is owned by Parx’s parent company, which does business as Greenwood Racing and Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment.

Work on retrofitting the building could begin as soon as next month, and the casino is expected to open in November, according to John Dixon, Greenwood’s chief operating officer who spoke before the gaming board Wednesday.

While the basic concept of the casino has not changed significantly since it was introduced nearly a year ago, board members and enforcement officers questioned Dixon and his team Wednesday about Parx’s commitment to addressing ongoing concerns.

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In particular, the board stressed the need for Parx to deal with the problem of children being left unattended outside the casino while their guardians are gambling. The gaming board routinely enacts gaming bans on people who have done so at casinos around the state.

“Typically at Parx Casino, there is always at least one rover out in the parking lot,” and more on busier days, Dixon said when asked about monitoring the premises for children left in cars.

“I would anticipate doing something very similar at Shippensburg,” Dixon said. “We’d have the signage reminding people that it is illegal to leave your child unattended in a vehicle.”

Likewise, Dixon also indicated that the bar and restaurant attached to the casino would allow minors, but would be separated with its own entrance to not allow them to enter the gaming floor. Board members asked if Parx anticipated issues with minors being left in the restaurant.

“We’ll obviously train our staff that that’s not permitted,” Dixon said. “We don’t want people putting their kids in the restaurant and the leaving them there while they go gamble.”

While Parx had initially indicated it would bring in a third party to lease the restaurant, that has changed, Dixon said.

“We’ve since decided not to do that and decided to operate the restaurant ourselves,” he told the gaming board Wednesday.

Parx anticipates applying for a certificate to add sports betting to the site at a later date. In addition to the slots, the table games would be electronic but with live dealers, Dixon said, and would include games such as blackjack, poker and others.

While Parx provides its own security, the company is “having discussions” with Shippensburg borough and township about arranging for local law enforcement responses, Dixon said.

Gaming board members also asked about working with Shippensburg University, given the potential attractiveness of the facility to college students.

“We certainly plan to have those communications,” said attorney Mark Stewart, Parx’s legal counsel.

The gaming enforcement office’s traffic engineer told the commission that he concurred with Parx’s traffic study, which indicated the traffic load from the casino would not impair surrounding intersections and that no road improvements were needed at this time.

The project is the result of Pennsylvania’s 2017 gaming expansion law, under which the gaming board has auctioned the rights to establish satellite mini-casinos to those operators who already have flagship locations. Parx’s primary casino is in Bensalem Township in Bucks County, just northeast of Philadelphia.

Parx secured the rights to a satellite location in 2018 for $8.1 million, but its first two proposed sites — in Carlisle Borough and South Middleton Township — did not get off the ground after the municipalities declined to revoke the casino opt-out clauses that they had exercised under the 2017 gaming law.

Shippensburg Township, however, did not utilize the opt-out clause, and allows casinos in commercial zoning districts under a conditional use ordinance. The township approved the casino’s zoning application last year, finding that it had met the zoning ordinance requirements.

Parx had previously applied to build a casino in the township adjacent to Interstate 81, but that proposal two years ago was abandoned after geological stability issues were discovered at the construction site.

During the required public hearings on the matter last year, many local residents voiced concern that the site would attract problem gamblers and harm the most vulnerable in the area. Some local officials, however, said the casino was an opportunity to fill a blighted space and attract significant revenue for local services.

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Under Pennsylvania’s gaming laws, a certain percentage of casino revenue-sharing is earmarked for local governments. Parx’s casino application indicates that the Shippensburg casino would generate about $42.5 million annually in qualifying revenue.

The cut that Shippensburg Township could receive from this actually exceeds the state’s limit, according to Parx’s revenue estimates. State law doesn’t allow municipalities to receive more than a 50% boost to their annual budget through the establishment of a casino.

Even at that, Shippensburg Township would get $720,000 per year in gaming revenue shares that could bolster local services such as fire companies, food banks, and more, local officials said last year.

Slot machine tax from the Shippensburg casino would also create $850,000 in grant funding available through the Commonwealth Financing Authority for economic development projects throughout Cumberland County, according to Parx’s revenue estimates.

The Shippensburg casino would have approximately 100 full-time employees and another 100 part-time and/or seasonal employees, according to Parx representatives.

While the casino would draw from the local market, the site’s proximity to I-81 means that Parx plans to target the Hagerstown and western Maryland market as well, Dixon said.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday voted unanimously to award a license to GW Cumberland Op. Co. (Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., operator of Parx Casino) to construct a category 4 casino in Shippensburg Township.

The award concludes a process the board began on Feb. 22, 2018, when Greenwood secure the right to locate a casino with a winning bid of $8.1 million at the board’s auction. The company filed an application with the board later that year to locate a casino off Exit 27 of Interstate 81, though later amended it to place the casino in the former Lowe’s store in the Shippen Town Center.

A category 4 slot machine license permits the company to operate between 300 and 750 slot machines, and the company could petition for permission to initially operate up to 30 table games for an additional fee of $2.5 million, with the capability of adding another 10 table games after its first year of operation. That table games certificate was also approved Wednesday by the board at its public meeting.


Parx Casino in Shippensburg will offer 500 slot machines, electronic table games and a restaurant and sports bar facility when it opens its 73,000-square-foot facility.

The board said the facility has a targeted opening of late 2022. The casino is expected to have more than 125 full-time jobs, and the casino has plans to offer sports wagering in the future.



Shippensburg residents debate risks of casino against financial windfall at Parx hearing

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