Pennsylvania Mini-Casino License Won With $10m Bid

  • Philadelphia investor Ira M. Lubert won the auction for a new satellite casino license
  • Another bid was received but no details about the bidder were revealed
  • An auction in 2018 awarded five licenses, netting the state over $100m in fees
  • The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s auction in 2019 received no bids
man bidding in an auction
Investor Ira Lubert won the lone Pennsylvania Category 4 mini-casino license up for grabs, beating one other bidder with a $10m bid. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Targeting Centre County

Philadelphia investor Ira M. Lubert has won the auction for a mini-casino license in Pennsylvania. The sealed bid of slightly more than $10m was the winner, with only a single Category 4 license up for grabs. There was another bidder, but the details of the party and their preferred casino site were not made public. 

30-mile radius of the Unionville borough of Centre County

Lubert is planning to develop the satellite casino in a 30-mile radius of the Unionville borough of Centre County, with no specific site yet selected. The $10m fee needs to be fully paid by 4pm on Friday and there needs to be a formal license application submitted within six months. 

There is still no guarantee that Lubert will obtain a license, as a formal application process still needs to be followed. This includes analysis of design plans and traffic studies, as well as a public hearing before a license is officially issued. 

Lubert was eligible to submit a bid as he is a principal investor in two of the state’s casinos, the Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

Trying again

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board offered parties the chance to bid for a mini-casino license once more after the previous auction in 2019 did not attract any bidders. The license for a satellite gaming outlet costs at least $7.5m; the bidding process for a Category 4 casino license took place on Wednesday

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law some new rules regarding the auction in May, allowing parties outside of the current operators of the 13 commercial casinos in the state to bid for the mini-casino licenses. This rule change allows any principal investors in the state’s 13 casinos to now also bid for a mini-casino license. 

As part of these rules, no new casinos can be developed within 40 miles of an existing satellite or commercial casino. Of the 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania, more than 1,000 declined to host a satellite casino. Therefore, according to analysts, only a few attractive locations are still up for grabs.

No satellite casinos open

Ten Category 4 licenses were authorized as part of the 2017 gambling expansion legislation. Also included was the legalization of online gambling, video gaming terminals, and sports betting. Satellite casinos will be able to have as many as 750 slot machines and up 40 table games.

generating over $100m worth of license fees for the state

Five licenses were snapped up in a 2008 auction, generating over $100m worth of license fees for the state. There were zero bids, however, at the auction in 2019. No Category 4 casinos have opened yet and Mount Airy Casino Resort was stripped of its license last year because it was not able to secure sufficient financing. It was Mount Airy’s vacated license that was up for grabs in this latest auction.

The Live! Casino Pittsburgh facility that is owned by the Cordish Companies is set to open by the end of the year. Penn National Gaming holds two satellite casino licenses; its developments in York and Berks counties are on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Parx satellite casino in Shippensburg is on the hunt for a new site after the initial location had sinkholes, though the company has not received its formal license yet.