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State board OKs Hollywood Casino gambling license in Springetts

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Penn National Gaming submitted its application to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, including a rending of the proposed "Hollywood Casino York."

The state's gambling regulator gave its approval Wednesday to a proposed mini-casino at the York Galleria mall.

The state Gaming Control Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a gambling license sought by Penn National, which intends to open Hollywood Casino in Springettsbury Township. 

"This being the second project that has been approved at an existing mall that has lost a significant amount of retail business, this type of project certainly should boost the amount of visitors to that facility and hopefully spur some renaissance to that facility," said Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the state Gaming Control Board.  

The Board of Commissioners met at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Strawberry Square in Harrisburg to hear Penn National officials provide evidence in support of their project, before a vote took place later that morning. 

This is the third Category 4 license that has been approved by the state, which comes after a 2017 expansion in Pennsylvania gambling laws in 2017 allowing for up to 10 permits for these "satellite" casinos. 

More:How would 'Hollywood Casino York' affect Springettsbury Township?

More:Sports gambling an option at proposed Hollywood Casino York

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.

In August, the Springettsbury Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously approving a conditional use application for construction of the casino. 

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

Corporate heads at Penn National expect construction of the casino to be completed in 12 months. The project budget is estimated at $120 million.

"York is a very good gambling market," said Chris Rogers, the vice president of corporate development for Penn National during the hearing. "We will be helping revitalize a struggling retail mall." 

A traffic study conducted by Jon Seitz, principal at Transportation Resource Group in York, was presented to the board Wednesday. 

Seitz said Penn National budgeted $175,000 for traffic improvements to the York Galleria. 

David Barasch, a commissioner with the state Gaming Control Board, raised questions during the hearing regarding how the traffic study was conducted with current and future uses of the York Galleria. 

"If this brings other retail activities back into the mall, what assumptions did you make about the secondary consequences of your own success?" he asked to the panel of Penn National officials. 

Seitz said the traffic study took into account the current stores occupying of the York Galleria, with many of such facilities like retail outlets and Gold's Gym would not bring in occupants the same time the casino would be operating. 

"The uses will come at different times," Seitz said, "We will be in good shape trafficwise at the mall." 

Hollywood Casino is expected to fill 80,000 square feet of the mall, with 500 slots and 24 tables occupying the space. The facility will also have a casual dining area, bar, entertainment stage and coffee venue. 

Despite food and beverage areas, minors under 21 will not be permitted into any area of the casino, Penn National officials said. 

"The board heard a thorough presentation, heard from the public and from state officials and made a sound decision," Harbach said. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.