A recent meeting held by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was set to see bids for more operators to obtain satellite casino licensing. However, the meeting resulted in zero interest and the board decided to cancel their auction as well as future auctions for the five licenses that remain.
A Little History
In late 2017, satellite casinos were approved in Pennsylvania as part of a larger gaming package. By January 2018, the Gaming Control Board was ready to host mini casino auctions to see who would obtain the right to create the smaller gaming venues.
Operators had to take part in an action and bid at minimum $7.5 million to even be considered. The first few auctions went heavily over the minimum mark. Penn National earned the first licensing paying just over $50 million to obtain it. The company than paid an additional $7 million plus to secure a second license during the fifth auction.
In total, from January to April of last year, the Board was able to provide five licenses for satellite gaming, collecting $127 million in auction bids. This amount was far more than the $100 million expected from all ten auctions.
By April 2018, the bidding had dried up and the auction set for the month had no bids. At that time, the Board had to decide if they would be offering another round of auctions and if they would be opening up the bidding to other qualified entities, outside the state casino license holders.
By July, it was announced that the auctions would be back by September. Approval was given to the Board to host five more auctions for the remaining licenses up for grabs. However, if no bids were received, then the auction process would end.
The new provision also added extra mileage protection around the existing casino facilities in the state. With the change, the satellite casinos cannot be placed within a 40 mile distance from a gaming property.
Unfortunately for the Board and the state, there was no interest in the mini casino licensing. Pennsylvania already has 12 existing casinos and one still to be constructed. With five mini casinos already approved, this creates even more competition in the state. It seems operators are just not willing to pony up the millions of dollars to offer a smaller venue in the region.
For the five mini casino planned, the Hollywood Casino Morgantown received approval, which will be operated by Penn National. The facility has plans to open by late next year. Approval was provided back in June.
A second operator, The Cordish Company, was approved in mid-August for their Live! Casino Pittsburgh. The facility will be located in the Westmoreland Mall and will cost $150 million to create.
For now, we will have to wait and see how the five mini casinos fare and if any attempt is made in the future to bring even more facilities to the state. With no interest currently, it will most likely be some time, if ever that the Board brings back the option for consideration.