Penn National chooses York Galleria for 'mini-casino'

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • The application deadline for a state license is Sept. 12.

Penn National plans to place its first "mini-casino" in a vacant department store at Springettsbury Township's York Galleria mall.

Patrons play slot machines at Hollywood Casino in Grantville, near Harrisburg, Friday, August 24, 2018. The casino is operated by Penn National Gaming, which may open a mini-casino in York County. Bill Kalina photo

Eric Schippers, a senior vice president for Penn National, confirmed Thursday that the Wyomissing-based gambling outfit "secured an option on the former Sears store at the York Galleria mall." 

"The company hopes to file an application on Sept. 12 with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a Category 4 Satellite Casino at that location," Schippers said. 

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, who sits on the House Gaming Oversight Committee, said while Penn National made its intentions known that it has selected Springettsbury Township, "there has not been an official filing by Penn National with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board."

"When the official filing is made, the PGCB will advise the county's legislative delegation," she explained. 

The gaming operator had been eyeing four locations throughout York County: Hellam, Manchester, Shrewbury and Springettsbury townships, Penn National Vice President of Public Affairs Jeff Morris previously confirmed. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018--An area that formerly housed the Sears store in the York Galleria Mall is a possible site for a Penn National betting facility. Bill Kalina photo

Its original license application deadline was in July, but the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a two-month extension.  

"Our hope is to locate our proposed Hollywood Casino York Category 4 satellite casino on the first floor of the former Sears store, which closed in August 2018," Schippers said. "We believe this location, together with our second Category 4 license in Berks County, will provide us a great opportunity to generate new revenues in the commonwealth while protecting our existing market share in central Pennsylvania."  

Additional details on the proposed pending application for Hollywood Casino York will be provided "in conjunction with the filing of our application with the Gaming Board on Sept. 12," Schippers explained. 

Penn National has been in close communication with the township regarding setting up the commonwealth’s first Category 4 mini-casino there.

"On the whole, the board of supervisors will be pleased to hear this news," Springettsbury Township manager Ben Marchant said in a phone interview Thursday morning. "It's an encouraging development. We're hoping it's a catalyst for further revitalization of the Galleria mall."

Gaming expansion: Mini-casinos were allowed under a gaming expansion bill approved in 2017. Earlier this year, Penn National submitted the winning $50 million bid for the opportunity to place a casino in York County.

Mini-casinos can have 750 slot machines, and Penn National, which operates Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg, has said it plans to pay another $2.5 million to operate 30 table games. 

Springettsbury Township initially had opted out, meaning it didn't want to be considered for a mini-casino site, but later it upped the ante by changing its status. 

Dozens of residents showed up at a July public hearing to oppose zoning amendments that approved the use of operating and locating a casino legally in the municipality. 

More:Penn National to York: Casino pushback is welcome

More:Change of heart: Springettsbury board wants in on casino action

Penn National chooses York Galleria Mall

Shoppers: Felton resident Laurie Knisely said she shops at the York Galleria and thinks that a casino is "just not needed."

"There are other things we could spend money on besides a casino," the 36-year-old said. "Maybe if it were off the mall's property and not connected to the mall ... I honestly don't think it's necessary."

Despite the pushback, others think the mini-casino will recharge the mall's waning foot traffic. 

"I think it might bring a lot of people here," 55-year-old Trent Chapin said. 

The Red Lion resident said he thinks it "might help the economy."

"Some people like to go to movies, and some people like to gamble, and that’s fine," Chapin said.