A while back, Penn National Gaming Inc. applied for a license to build a $111 million mini-casino in Morgantown near the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The facility would have the capacity to hold up to 750 slot machines as well as 30 table games – this was outlined at the application stage but the company’s officials still clarified the company’s plans at a public hearing that was held in Caernarvon Township on Monday 3.
Unfortunately, despite the wave of optimism that was portrayed by the Penn National Gaming officials, things did not pan out the way they expected. The reception was not warm, to say the least, and it is being speculated that this may have been because the hearing was attended by more critics than supporters. In fact, of the over 1000 residents who attended the hearing at the Caernarvon Township municipal building, a large percentage of the expressed their sentiments through a badge that said “CasiNO!”. Obviously, this was not a good start for the company.
Apparently, there is an emerging grass-roots anti-casino group in the neighboring Honey Brook. Michele King, the leader of the group presented a petition with 1,029 signatures during the hearing – the petition opposed the establishment of the casino citing concerns that such an initiative did not reflect the character of the community in surrounding areas.
More Harm than Good?
Some of the concerns that the people who were opposing the establishment mentioned during the hearing included spikes in gambling addiction as well as other forms of gambling-related harm, an increase in drug abuse, sex trafficking, and prostitution. The community has been known to be faith-based and socially conservative and therefore it was not so surprising that they opposed the project.
In fact, according to, Richard McGarvey, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s spokesman, the opposition that the proposed Penn National Gaming mini-casino faced was perhaps the most organized one.
Even so, there was still a significant amount of support from the locals – 53 of the 71 written comments that were submitted to the board before the hearing were in favor of the project. Most of these were union workers who pointed out the prospects of good-paying jobs and more opportunities for businesses. The proposed mini-casino is definitely not going to be as big as the operator’s Dauphin County-based Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course but if it goes through, the project is set to create about 250 local jobs and close to 275 construction jobs and will include an entertainment lounge, a restaurant as well as a food court.
The hearing might have been the latest step in the approval process but the fact that it did not turn out so well does not mean that it’s the end for the proposed project. There is still a separate licensing hearing to be hosted by the PGCB but the dates for these are yet to be announced.