CLEARFIELD – The race to host a new mini casino in Pennsylvania is not over yet.
In October a bill to expand gambling sites in the commonwealth to include mini casinos was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf. This led to auctions for the 10 available licenses. Only four have been awarded.
The new businesses will be classified as Category 4 gambling establishments or mini casinos that will have as many as 750 slot machines and up to 40 gaming tables. They have to be at least 25 miles from the current larger casinos.
Officials in Clearfield County have approached some of the possible casino operators suggesting a profitable location would be in Lawrence Township near Interstate 80.
“I’ve been hearing that this is a dead project and that is not the case,” said Rob Swales, chief executive officer of Clearly Ahead Development, adding, “We are still in the race.”
Swales explained that authorities continue to reach out every 10 to 14 days to company executives.
In January the first licenses were awarded to Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association LLC for $50,100,000 to be located in the Borough of Yoe in York County and Stadium Casino LLC for $40,100,005 for a site in Derry Township in Westmoreland County.
The idea is to award two licenses a month with the last ones granted in May.
In February Mount Airy #1 LLC had the high bid of $21,188,888.88 for a mini casino in New Castle in Lawrence County.
The second license given in February had a problem with the bid from Sands Bethworks Gaming for a spot in Henfield Township in Mercer County.
It was invalidated because the location intruded onto Mount Airy #1 LLC’s license.
The license was then awarded to the second highest bidder, $8,111,000 by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc. for a spot in South Newton Township in Cumberland County.
March presented additional problems for the commonwealth’s gambling commission. No one bid on the first available license and the second date had to be changed to April 4 because of weather.
Swales is not worried about the slowdown on groups bidding on the licenses.
“The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is planning on extending their efforts past May 16 so they can issue all 10 licenses,” Swales said. “We will continue our marketing efforts to promote Clearfield County for consideration until all licenses have been awarded.”
He expects the local area and the smaller markets will play a part in the next auctions because the state borders are being saturated.
“The closest casinos are in Harrisburg area and Westmoreland County. We are wide open in central PA,” he said.
Even if a mini casino is granted to the State College, Altoona or Johnstown markets, it does not eliminate Clearfield County because these cities are further away than the 25 mile requirement.
“Our visibility from I-80 and ability to be responsive to speed to market development services are major advantages over many other areas along the Interstate in central PA.”
Clearly Ahead Development is a private, non-profit, membership organization serving the community to create growth and opportunity in Clearfield County.