Last Monday, the board heard from Penn Harris Gaming, which wants to locate the facility at a Holiday Inn about five miles west of Harrisburg. Last Tuesday, it heared from another of the four candidates, a hotel outside of Gettysburg.
The decision who to to award the license to will be taken by the end of this year and the state requires the operator to have "275 rooms". To meet state requirements of at least 275 rooms, Penn Harris wants to count among its "guests" drivers of recreational vehicles who park at the facility. Detractors of the proposal ranged from the owners of Penn National Racetrack's Hollywood casino near here to the United Methodist Church.
"Pennsylvania doesn't need any more casinos," Stephen Drachler, United Methodist advocacy director, told the board at a public input hearing. "More casinos will equal more addiction. More addiction will hurt families. No matter where you place another casino, the problem will not be solved," he said. "How many children are being endangered by parents who have been caught up in gambling addictions because of the proximity of so many casinos in Pennsylvania?"
Penn National has its own interest to protect. Its 2-year-old Hollywood casino is about 20 miles east of Harrisburg and about 25 miles from the Holiday Inn site.
The Hollywood gambling hall is one of Pennsylvania's nine - soon to be 10 - full-sized casinos and as such, can have up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games. That is much larger than the Holiday Inn proposal, which would be limited to 600 slots and 50 table games.
Penn National officials said they feared even a smaller casino would siphon off some customers. The proximity "is clearly contrary to the intention of Pennsylvania's gaming legislation - which is intended to maximize the tax contributions from gaming operators," Penn National said in a statement.
The firm also charged that the Holiday Inn didn't have enough "amenities," such as a golf course, to qualify as a resort, and thus doesn't comply with state law. It also has only 239 rooms and would need to count RV drivers to meet minimum requirements.
The us$ 75 million Holiday Inn project is proposed by Atlantic City, N.J., lawyers John Donnelly and Michael Sklar, along with the CMS Companies, which owns many hotels and apartment buildings around the nation.
The Gaming Board is expected to award the license by the end of the year. The other competitors are a hotel/convention center south of Gettysburg; the Nemacolin Woodlands resort in Fayette County; and the Fernwoods resort in the Poconos. Nemacolin will have its public hearing September 8.
Penn National, which operates several racetrack/casinos and stand-alone casinos in various states, has agreed to operate the Gettysburg casino if that project gets the resort license.
More than 400 individuals and community groups signed up to speak at the Gettysburg hearing today. It is expected to last for hours and will be televised live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, starting at 10 a.m.