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Westmoreland officials betting county will get a mini casino |

Westmoreland officials betting county will get a mini casino

| Thursday, January 11, 2018 6:42 p.m.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cereli, talks about the improvements at Westmoreland Manor, and services available to seniors within the county, during the annual Chamber of Commerce State of the County luncheon, at the Ramada Inn in Hempfield Twp. , on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

A new mini casino located in Westmoreland County as part of a gambling expansion in Pennsylvania is long overdue, county commissioners said Thursday as part of their “state of the county’ addresses.

“It’s not fair that Westmoreland County doesn’t have a casino, and we’re hopeful that Westmoreland County will get a casino,” commission Chairman Gina Cerilli said at the annual Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce luncheon, noting that full casinos are operating in neighboring Allegheny, Washington and Fayette counties.

Cerilli, along with commissioners Ted Kopas and Charles Anderson, spoke to 360 business leaders from throughout the county at the event at the Ramada Greensburg.

When Kopas was asked about the possibility that one of the smaller casinos — limited to 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games — would be built somewhere in Westmoreland, he responded, “Yes, yes and yes.”

“I do think it brings value to our area,” Kopas said.

The state’s Gaming Control Board on Wednesday auctioned the first of up to 10 mini casino licenses. The company that owns Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course outside Harrisburg won the first mini casino license and reserved land in York County for its new facility.

The Harrisburg casino bid $50.1 million for the right to build a satellite facility nearby. It was one of four casinos that submitted bids.

The gaming control board did not disclose the identity of the other bidders.

State Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, who serves on the gaming oversight committee in the state House, said he expects a Westmoreland County location will be chosen as a site for a satellite casino. And he expected that could happen as early as the next auction, set for Jan. 24.

“I’m very confident that will happen. Everything I’m hearing in Harrisburg is that the prime locations are in our area and in Lawrence County. I’m hearing enough stuff through the grapevine to say that,” Dunbar said.

Officially, commissioners and county planners have said there’s been no discussion with casino operators about locating a facility locally.

A casino would provide financial resources through tax payments, commissioners said.

“We have to do it right, but I would love to have an extra $20 million to put into our infrastructure,” Anderson said.

Under the expanded gaming law, most of the county is open to a satellite casino. Nine communities — New Alexandria, Delmont, Laurel Mountain Borough, Murrysville, Oklahoma Borough, South Hunting­don, North Huntingdon, Penn Township and Upper Burrell — have notified the gaming board they will not allow a casino within their borders.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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