Penn National still awaits licensing approval for proposed York Galleria mini-casino

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Penn National's proposal for a mini-casino at York Galleria remains on hold as state regulators grapple with an entirely new type of gambling license.

The proposed mini-casino in Springettsbury Township would be among the first test of Pennsylvania's 2017 expansion of gambling laws to allow up to 10 permits for Category 4 or  "satellite casinos."

Noting the mini-casino licensing process is a "first for everybody," the Pennsylvania  Gaming Control Board's approval process is moving slower than usual, said Jeff Morris, a spokesman for Penn National. 

The fact that Penn National's mini-casino would be placed in a mall — also a new development — is adding to the delay, said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the Gaming Control Board. 

The company submitted its application to the PGCB on Sept. 12.

As of June 3, Penn National was still awaiting confirmation of a scheduled date for its presentation with PGCB.

McGarvey said while each category of casino cannot be compared because of factors making the process for license authentication different, the approval process typically takes a year.

The York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, February 5, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

For example, Category 1 casinos — "racinos" or casinos at horse racing tracks — received licenses sooner due to factors that eliminated the "competitive process" associated with choosing a location, as horse racing tracks were already built at locations looking to receive licenses, McGarvey explained.

McGarvey said he expects Penn National to receive its license by year's end.

Three other Category 4 casinos  — in Derry Township, Westmoreland County; New Castle, Lawrence County; and South Newton Township, Cumberland County — also are pending approval from the PGCB.

Morris said if the license gets approved, Penn National would begin construction "as soon as possible," with an estimated timeline of 12 to 18 months for completion.

The $120 million project would overhaul the former Sears space in the York Galleria, officials have said. 

Once opened, the mini-casino would create about 200 jobs, Morris said. 

Satellite casinos, more commonly known as mini-casinos, can operate 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games, according to PA Online Casino.

Penn National selected the Galleria as the site of the first mini-casino in September 2018. The company bid the highest, $50 million, to place a casino in York County.

Although Springettsbury Township originally did not want to be considered for a mini-casino site, it later accepted the offer. 

Following the township's decision to allow for the construction of a casino, mixed opinions from residents were heard loud and clear at a public hearing in July 2018.

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.