When the Pennsylvania House approved the gambling bill they received from the Senate last week, it felt like the entire Keystone State let out a unified sigh. Relief was even greater when Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law on Monday, making PA the fourth US state to legalize iGaming.
Well, almost the entire state. There was a noticeable groan emanating from Grantville’s Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, where Penn National exec Eric Schippers told eastern PA news station WFMZ that Penn National his organization was “disappointed” with the outcome of the vote.
“We are beyond disappointed by the Legislature’s ill-conceived and hasty gaming expansion plan, which will have a uniquely punitive impact on our Hollywood Casino in Grantville [Dauphin County] and the jobs it represents,” Schippers said.
Legislature wasn’t prepared, Penn National says
The gaming group’s main beef with the bill is that its expansive text and finer points weren’t understood by legislatures.
There may be some truth to this, as gambling expansion backer Rep. George Dunbar said he spent the night in his office as he stayed up until the wee hours helping clarify the bill for his House colleagues.
Penn National’s criticism of ill-prepared lawmakers was not subtle.
“We will be studying the entirety of the 970-page bill, which many in the Legislature did not have the benefit of prior to voting, and in the meantime will be weighing all of our legal options,” Schippers said.
Satellite casinos in PA could cut into Penn National profits
How the gambling bill’s effects play out is an interesting scenario. Obviously, Schippers believes that Penn National will lose out and much of that has to do with satellite casinos.
The new PA gaming law allows for the creation of up to 10 satellite casinos, which are smaller branches of existing brick-and-mortar casinos.
The law requires the satellite casinos to be at least 25 miles away from existing casinos. While that gives sites like Penn National a little breathing room, it’s apparently not enough
Some of the prime targets for these satellites are communities near Penn National: Reading, Lancaster, New York and Gettysburg. It stands to reason that Penn National won’t be building a satellite near their existing location. Other casinos, however, will, and, the thinking goes, Penn National will lose customers to these satellites.
Most experts would agree that cannibalization is possible in this scenario, but it’s not a guarantee. We’ve yet to see how Pennsylvania gamblers will respond to these satellite casinos; they may love them, they may not.