PA Board Approves Casino On Edge of Lancaster Amish Country

Looks like gambling will be coming to the doorstep of Lancaster County’s Amish region after all. Despite protests from residents, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted yesterday, unanimously, to approve a new casino project:

Pennsylvania regulators on Wednesday approved Penn National Gaming’s proposed satellite casino in Berks County to attract gamblers from Philadelphia’s growing western suburbs, the first of five so-called mini-casinos licensed under a 2017 law expanding gambling.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to grant a license for the Hollywood Casino Morgantown, which abuts a Pennsylvania Turnpike exit just beyond the Chester County border.

The proposed $110 million, 86,000-square-foot casino would be about half the size of the flagship Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. It will contain 750 slot machines and 30 table games, the maximum allowed under the 2017 law that permits casinos to open satellite operations no closer than 25 miles from existing casinos. It will also include a sports betting area, restaurants, and bars, but no poker room.

This is considered a “mini-casino”, the first to be approved under the 2017 law noted in our April post on the issue. This image shows its planned location (image by John Duchneskie of the Philadelphia Inquirer):

I am pretty familiar with this area. The nearest Amish live within a mile or two of this site, in Lancaster County’s Caernarvon Township. The area contains a beautiful valley filled with Amish farms.

Officials from Berks County and Berks County’s Caernarvon Township “characterized the opponents as a small minority, most of whom live outside Caenarvon.”

That noted, the casino was opposed by a petition with over 1,000 signatures, and over 200 people attended a public hearing in March, with a majority of those opposing it.

WFMZ News found both support and disappointment in the wake of the decision, with one resident calling it “awesome” and expecting it to bring in more people and “finances”. Another said “it will be a good thing to have around here, ’cause this place is boring'”.

On the other hand, one woman expressed the view of those opposed: “It doesn’t reflect the values of this area,”…”[I] fear it will bring in undesirable things, like drugs, sex trafficking, more traffic and some things that might cause problems for families and children.”

The lot in Morgantown where the casino will be built. Via WFMZ News

The casino is expected to open by late 2020.

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    1. Jim Kramer


      Of COURSE they ignored the wishes of the residens! The same type of railroading happened in Pittsburgh, back when we voted an overwhelming NO to the two sports stadiums, one for baseball, the other for football. To this day no one knows whether the forty million dollars still owed on former Three Rivers stadium was ever paid. Our sales tax went up to seven percent, “Temporarily,”they said. WHEN DID A TAX EVER GO AWAY, once it was instituted?! “WE the People” have no say, and if there is an Exodus of Amish in the near future, you’ll know why.

    2. J

      Humans act like locusts

      Slowly they destroy open space/farmland…and the Amish.

      The casino starts small to limit push-back from the community. It will expand in the following years and the area will continue to develop more roads, buildings, bars, and so on. Taxes will rise in order to support this development.

      Stunning to hear a local say the casino is good because things are “boring” around there. These supporters have no idea what they are bringing in. Or maybe they do. Which is scary.

      Im not sure how old Erik Wesner is, but I’d like to see him do a story(if you haven’t already) on how the Amish landscape in this area has changed over the last few decades. I ask because this area was pretty much the same for so long until maybe the 1980s(?) when tourism and non-Amish started to exploit the land which has led to the slow erosion of “Amish Country.”

      Even people who love the area admit it has become too congested.

      Funny how a nearby Casino in Chester is located right next to a prison. Symbolism. If that doesn’t tell you how bad Casinos are, I don’t know what else will.

      1. I haven’t done that story but might be interesting in some form. I first came to Lancaster County (as an adult, at least) in 2007. So I haven’t seen the changes firsthand though there are certainly significantly more Amish in the area 12 years later (and I believe the non-Amish population in the county has grown as well, though maybe not as at quite a rate).

        The area is going to attract non-Amish residents given that it is already a high-population part of the country, has some attractive features vis-a-vis quality of life, and given the attention paid to Amish in the media and other places, tourism I think is inevitable.

        On the flipside, some Amish do benefit from tourist dollars and Amish businesses sell a lot of their products and services (in many cases a majority) to non-Amish customers. These English-supported businesses are responsible for many families ability to remain in the area and make a living, especially given the high cost of farmland and in any case farming not being an occupation for everyone.

        1. J


          Today, with the non-Amish moving into these areas, bringing in their own “fast pace culture,” the Amish are increasingly being surrounded by distraction and temptation. And environment plays a big role in shaping people.

          It happens slowly, like watching grass grow, but over the years, generations, they are accepting non-Amish life. Accepting technology like the smart phone, computers, power grid, is symbolic of this change.

          The population is increasing. But what concerns me is how the Amish culture is in danger. And if they lose the culture, are they really Amish? Some have said they are not sure how much longer they can hold on. They see how they are surrounded by this development. How their kids are growing up in this non-Amish environment and how it gives them “ideas.” They want more of the Englisch life. As a result, some communities are allowing more Englisch lifestyle changes.

          It’s a difficult topic to discuss because there are so many different Amish. I just try to stand back and look at the big picture, that goes back a few decades, and look for trends.

          I enjoy this site and the work you do. I just see many problems in non-Amish society and it bothers me to see some of these problems creep into the Amish communities. In fact, I got rid of my television and try to live a quieter/slower life.

          1. Good points there J. Aside from the faith aspect, culturally there are some key markers that will “keep them Amish” at least from the cultural perspective, including the horse and buggy, plain clothing and Pennsylvania German language. I think the first 2 are staying fast even as the buggies and clothing get modified over time. I could see PA German eroding though in some communities, which has already been happening.

    3. C. J.


      It is a SAD STORY…A SAD day for Lancaster, A SAD day for the Amish and other Christians, in and around Lancaster Co.
      WHY, you say?
      It is a sad day, when supporters are so ignorant and only looking for $$$$ and cannot see the damage they are doing. To ignore all of those signatures on a petition to stop this development, which will degrade the community, attract and bring in all kinds of bad influences to this beautiful county,…it just makes no sense at all. As the saying goes, “A few bad apples will spoil the whole barrel”. What ignorance, & disrespect, these “SO CALLED LEADERS” have shown. We do not live there, but have visited, and in our own state where gambling…and POT…are now legal, I have seen what effects these things have on a beautiful state. I think our creator, is SAD indeed.

    4. AJ

      Of course the county and local officials will say that. They say the same thing everywhere…. “ It is what the people want”.

      Why not put it up for a vote then? They know they would lose. They develop and sideline longtime residents like trash. For them it is just a “vocal minority”. Yea, right. I think they mean they will make the current majority in the area a minority by ramping up development to bring in more and more people who will vote for them and who will careless about the area for which the previous majority cared.

      The local officials care only about money. That money for re-election isn’t coming from mom and pop bakeries and farms. It is coming from big business and in this case the casinos that lobbied them. Their constituents aren’t the people that voted for them. It is the lobbyists who guarantee them money, benefits, and campaign contributions.

    5. Beverly

      PA Board Approves Casino

      I’m reading people are upset and concerned for alot of different reasons
      over a mini casino being built.
      Because of the unknown, people don’t know what to expect with something like this;and that is very understandable.
      While my perspective on it won’t help to alleviate those concerns etc…I will say,from where I live here in Washington State..we have a lot of casinos spread through out. Especially on native American reservations! Some are “mini” others are the “big ones” complete with various restaurants inside and a attached hotel. We get a great many people utilizing those casinos that are closest to the Washington/Canadian border. Let me tell you..the parking lots are always full! With that being said..speaking of the ones that are closest to me…(they are located along side our interstate) they do not interfere with people’s lives. Our traffic is no more congested that it usually is..etc. It just surprises me, how willing people are to be parted from their money!! So in conclusion, I think the fear of the unknown, is what is perpetuating the negative thoughts, feelings and opinions about a mini casino coming to your part of town/field. You will have to wait and see, what this journey developes into. It might not be as bad as you feel it will be!