In Pennsylvania, the expanded gambling legislation signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf last month could soon reportedly be subjected to a legal challenge after it emerged that the measure contains a lucrative amendment that many see as unfairly beneficial to the eastern state’s Mount Airy Casino Resort and, to a lesser extent, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.
According to a report from The Scranton Times-Tribune newspaper, the 28-word amendment was added by an unknown lawmaker just hours before the 939-page legislation was approved and prohibits a ‘category-four slot machine license’ from being granted to ‘a sixth-class county’ that is adjacent to ‘a county that hosts a category-two-licensed facility’.
The legislation approved by Wolf on October 30 paves the way for Pennsylvania to license up to ten new satellite casinos featuring a maximum of 750 slots as well as 30 gaming tables although these facilities must be located at least 25 miles from any of the state’s existing twelve casinos. However, the newspaper reported that the controversial amendment means that the exclusion zone around Mount Airy Casino Resort is nearly triple this distance with no competitors being allowed in its home Monroe County or in the contiguous Pike County, Wayne County and Carbon County.
The Scranton Times-Tribune reported that Mount Airy Casino Resort is the seventh most profitable gambling venue in Pennsylvania and regularly pulls in annual gaming revenues of around $235 million. It moreover explained that the amendment means that the Mount Pocono-based venue is due to remain as the closest and most accessible casino for visitors from the neighboring state of New York.
Some 290 miles to the west and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is furthermore reportedly set to benefit from the amendment as its home county, Allegheny County, touches the sixth-class Armstrong County.
The Scranton Times-Tribune cited Mark Rozzi from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as stating that ‘something smells’ regarding the amendment. The Democratic lawmaker reportedly voted against the expanded gambling legislation and declared that he now expects operators such as Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming Incorporated, which runs the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Dauphin County, to sue over concerns that it has created an uneven playing field.
Eric Schippers, Public Affairs Senior Vice-President for Penn National Gaming Incorporated, reportedly proclaimed that his firm was currently considering its legal options due to the fact that its Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is especially vulnerable to the new legislation as it draws half of its existing customers from outside of the new 25-mile exclusion zone.
“What’s upsetting to us is that Penn National [Gaming Incorporated] is being uniquely negatively impacted by this massive expansion of gaming,” Schippers reportedly told The Scranton Times-Tribune. “At the same time, they give this gift to Mount Airy [Casino Resort]. It’s unequal treatment. This is an eleventh-hour giveaway.”