Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Trying Again to Unload Mini-Casino Licensing

In late 2017, when the state of Pennsylvania approved several expansions for the gambling industry, one option was the introduction of satellite casinos. Also known as mini casinos, operators could apply for licensing to open smaller venues that featured lesser amounts of slots and table games. In 2018, the board approved only five licenses and now they are trying again in the hopes of earning more revenues for the state via licensing fees.

Motion to Approve

The Gaming Control Board met this week and during the meeting, Executive Director Kevin F. O’Toole filed a motion to set up auctions beginning in September to approve satellite gaming outlets. The Category 4 casinos were approved once again to be considered with the first auction set for September 4th.

Only the 13 licensed casinos in the state can apply to provide the smaller gaming venues. Up to 750 slots can be placed inside the satellite casinos and only 40 table games. The option to bring back the auctions is part of a requirement from legislation passed in June that requires the state complete as many as five rounds of bidding for licensing. The auctions can run starting from September into December. If no bids are made, then auction process will come to an end.

Will Bidding Take Place?

When the bidding first began last year for satellite casinos, operators had to come forward with a bid over $7.5 million and the highest bidder would win. The first bid came in at $50.1 million and the amounts slowly decreased from there, going to as low as $10.5 million.

The satellite casinos have yet to launch and until they do, we really won’t know how high of a demand the venues will have. Will customers visit them? Will they be popular? If the board gave the venues time to launch and player retention seen, operators might be more willing to apply for licensing in the fall.

The new mini casinos must be built in an area that is a minimum of 40 miles from an existing satellite casino or standard casino. The location requirement was changed recently, going a little further than the original 25 mile requirement.

Mt. Airy Casino was provided a cushion from competition in the legislation and a mini casino cannot be created in Carbon, Wayne or Pike counties.

Pennsylvania is seriously bustling now when it comes to gambling expansion. Online sports betting sites just launched and online casino gaming will be live on the 15th via at least one provider, Parx Casino. With satellite casinos under construction and video gaming terminals in the mix for truck stops, there is no stopping the momentum that the state is currently experiencing.

It will most likely take a few years of the majority of the changes to come into play and it will certainly be interesting to see where the state stands once all the revenues begin rolling in!


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.