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Penn Hills opts out of chance for mini-casino

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Penn Hills council recently voted to prohibit casinos from opening in the municipality.

The unanimous vote solidified the municipality's already slim chances of landing one of the 10 new mini-casinos recently OK'd by the state to plug its $2.2 billion budget shortfall. A provision in the law states that a mini-casino cannot open within 25 miles of an existing casino unless it is a satellite of that facility.

A mini-casino would include between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 50 gambling tables.

The state-approved mini-casinos, internet gambling, fantasy sports betting and video gaming terminals at truck stops is an effort to raise $200 million or more in the first year to balance the state budget.

Municipalities, by state law, have until Jan. 1 to opt out of allowing a mini-casino in their municipality.

While Penn Hills has voted to do so, it could rescind that decision down the road if Rivers comes calling, Penn Hills Solicitor Craig Alexander said.

“The law permits you to opt back in at any time, but it only gives you the one occasion to opt out,” he said.

Pennsylvania's 12 casinos topped $3 billion in gambling revenue in 2016, making it the No. 2 state for commercial casino gambling revenue behind Nevada.

By Jan. 16, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will be required to hold the first blind auction for one of the mini-casino licenses.

The minimum bid is $7.5 million, and only Pennsylvania's licensed casino owners can submit sealed bids.

The auction winner will get the choice of a site, with a prohibition against any other new casino within a 15-mile radius. A table games permit costs an extra $2.5 million.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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