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Lawrence County to be site of Pennsylvania's third mini-casino

| Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, 10:12 a.m.
Slot machines inside Rivers Casino on the North Shore.
Tribune Review
Slot machines inside Rivers Casino on the North Shore.

Lawrence County is to finally get its dream of hosting a casino — some 14 years after being promised one.

Mount Airy #1 LLC on Thursday bid nearly $21.2 million for the rights to Pennsylvania's third mini casino license, which it intends to build in or near New Castle.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the winning bid before its meeting Feb. 8 in Harrisburg.

State officials already have seen more than $90 million bid on the first two licenses auctioned in January, including one facility planned in Westmoreland County.

Stadium Live LLC bid $40.1 million to reserve a license to build a small casino within a 15-mile region centered in Derry Township.

State officials will auction off 10 mini casino licenses through May for the rights to build small facilities that have up to 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games.

Lawrence County officials tried for more than a decade to land one of Pennsylvania's coveted racetrack and casino operations before the state Gaming Control board in July 2016 officially denied the gaming license application for Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort.

The racino project was to be built on a 250-acre site in Mahoning Township, outside of New Castle.

Lawrence County was promised a racino in 2004, when state lawmakers legalized casino gambling in Pennsylvania.

Six different developers tried to land a casino gaming license and a horse racing license for the project, which once was known as Valley View Downs.

Now the Mount Airy group will select a location and finalize a deal for its mini casino within a 15-mile radius of New Castle.

The Mahoning Township location falls within that area.

Mount Airy #1 LLC operates Mount Airy Casino Resort near Mount Pocono, Monroe County, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

"We are happy with their decision," said Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler, "and we are going to do all we can to make them feel welcome."

Vogler said he has placed a call to the general manager of the Mount Airy casino but has yet to speak to anyone with the group.

In November, Lawrence County commissioners mailed packets to all Pennsylvania casino operators — the only ones allowed to bid for the licenses — marketing their county and interest in hosting a mini casino.

They met with one operator and received a letter from Mount Airy officials, Vogler said.

"We are very pleased," he said.

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