As plans to reopen retail gambling venues continue to pick up pace in Pennsylvania, the state’s gaming control board also seems to have its sights set on even more expansion. Once again, the state will be trying its luck at increasing the number of mini-casinos. Already, the gaming officials have set September 2 as the date for a mini-casino license auction.
The first hint of this move came as part of a budget bill that the state’s legislature passed in late May. This very broad bill included a couple of gaming-related provisions that would allow for the potential establishment of a mini-casino and a sportsbook at Westmoreland County mini-casino.
Now, it seems that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is finally ready to push forward with those plans. Just like in the previous auctions, existing licenses retail casino operators will be able to bid for the licenses. The bidders will need to submit details of prospective locations – these have to be no less than 40 miles away from other casino operations. Moreover, as it was before, the minimum bid amount is a whopping $7.5 million.
The past seven mini-casino license auctions did not turn out as expected. As a matter of fact, the last auction which was on September 4, 2019, did not have any bides. This can easily be attributed to the existence of exclusion zones that have been formed around existing and proposed casino venues. These zones have made the state’s largest metropolitan areas inaccessible to new mini-casinos – it is quite understandable that bidders would shy away from any more mini-casino licenses.
So, what is the motivation behind the renewed hope for the license auction? Well, to begin with, the state has been trying to find ways to increase revenue streams. The coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns that followed have starved the treasury of tax revenue and the lawmakers are trying to tap into a potential revenue source. Successful mini-casino license auctions in the start brought in millions of dollars to state coffers.
Will There Be Any Interest from Operators?
While this certainly remains to be seen, it is safe to speculate that a bit of interest could exist owing to the rather notable lack of an additional gambling venue in western Pennsylvania. The gaming operators may take this as an opportunity to set up shop in an area that has untapped potential. Pennsylvania’s gambling market is pretty lucrative and thus gaming operators may be able to make a killing if they play their cards right. Meanwhile, the state will be eagerly waiting to receive tax revenue in addition to the license fees.