Penn National Eyes August Opening For York County Mini-Casino And Berks Soon Afterward

Penn National Gaming remains on track for an August opening of its mini-casino in York County, with another in Berks County to follow this year within months after that, the company confirmed Thursday.

The national gaming operator with two racetrack casinos already in Pennsylvania — Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County and Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County — made note of the timetable in a quarterly financial presentation to the investment community Thursday.

The new pair of central Pennsylvania satellite casinos were originally planned to open last year but were delayed by COVID-19 concerns.

Penn National bid $50.1 million at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s first mini-casino auction in January 2018 for rights to develop the York County mini-casino, which it later announced would be located at York Galleria Mall in Springettsbury Township.

That price was the highest bid for any of the five Category 4 casinos, as they are formally known. It is part of an overall $120 million cost for the York County project, which replaces a former Sears store that had 80,000 square feet of space. The state’s first mini-casino, the Live! Pittsburgh venue, also opened in vacant department store space last November at Westmoreland Mall.

Career center created to begin hiring

Penn National recently made note of the intended August opening in York when announcing a career center had begun taking applications and conducting interviews on the lower level of York Galleria Mall.

The company said the gaming site would provide 200 permanent jobs, and it was seeking applicants for food and beverage service, security, surveillance, human resources, marketing, and other casino operations.

The mini-casino is allowed to have up to 750 slot machines and 40 table games, which would make it less than half the size of Penn National’s other Pennsylvania casinos, but the present plans call for a still lesser scale. The company states it expects to have 500 slot machines and 24 table games in addition to a Barstool Sportsbook and race book, a casual restaurant and bar, and a grab-and-go eatery.

The mall is along busy U.S. Route 30 and is near Interstate 83, which carries traffic between Harrisburg and Baltimore. The site is about 40 miles south of the Hollywood Casino in Grantville, giving residents of south-central Pennsylvania one more gambling option in a region that currently has fewer of them compared to the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas.

CEO promises to boost iCasino site

Penn National made other Pennsylvania news this week with the launch of its online Barstool Casino, which is paired on the platform of the Barstool Sportsbook that launched in the state in September. During Thursday’s report to financial analysts, Penn National CEO Jay Snowden acknowledged the site is not as robust as it should be, but he expects it to have more offerings by the end of summer.

Penn National on Monday announced the pending acquisition of HitPoint Studios Inc., a company that develops online games, and the establishment of Penn Game Studios, which will be responsible for creating in-house content for Barstool Casino that none of its competitors have.

Barstool Casino, which obtained permanent operating approval from regulators Wednesday after a two-day test period, became the 16th iCasino in Pennsylvania. Many of them share the same offerings from the same content providers, although the Barstool site actually provides less of them than others, with just 53 slot titles.

Penn National also has a Barstool iCasino in Michigan, and Snowden is looking to build up both of their offerings in time for football season, when many customers are using the sportsbook and might also be drawn to play casino games. Most online gaming operators derive far more revenue from their casinos than they can from sportsbooks.

“We are really just scratching the surface of our potential in this space,” Snowden said. “We would be the first to say our iCasino product is not today where it needs to be. It’s a little bit barebones … and we’re going to get that ramped up.”

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