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 casino is expected to open by late 2020.