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Few details released in heavily redacted application for Westmoreland mini casino

Rich Cholodofsky
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The proposed mini casino planned for a vacant department store at the Westmoreland Mall could open around this time next year, state Sen. Kim Ward said Tuesday.

Details of the proposed gaming facility in Hempfield are being kept under wraps ahead of a Dec. 5 public hearing for the project, which the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will hold beginning at 10 a.m. inside the Hempfield municipal building.

Ward, a Hempfield Republican, said she has met with representatives from Cordish Companies, the Baltimore-based development and gaming company that is expected to own and operate the local casino.

“They said that if everything goes smoothly, it could be open by the end of 2019,” Ward said.

A heavily redacted 162-page application posted on the gaming board’s website lists the former Bon-Ton department store location as the site for the project as well as declarations that traffic and emergency calls related to the new casino would have negligible impacts on township resources.

Specific revenue projections and tax implications for the casino as well as plans for the scope of the project were not made public.

“The application is what it is,” said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the state gaming board. “The applicant has to do a presentation, about 30 to 45 minutes, at the start of the hearing, so at least there will be more information then.”

Stadium Casino LLC paid $40 million this year for the rights to build the small casino in Westmoreland County that is expected to eventually house up to 750 slot machines and 40 table games.

According to its application, the casino will occupy the two-story, 100,000-square-foot space left vacant when Bon-Ton closed this year. The location serves as one of four anchors at the mall, located about three miles east of Greensburg. Officials previously said the casino is expected to employ about 600 workers.

Cordish spokesperson Carmen Gonzales, in a statement issued late Tuesday, said the company will reveal more details next week.

“We will be bringing a first-class experience to Westmoreland that will go well beyond a great casino to include unique dining and entertainment experiences unlike anything currently in the region. Our new facility will be a true destination for the area, with a distinctive and high-end look and feel, generating $200 million in annual economic impact and creating approximately 960 direct and indirect construction jobs plus a similar number of permanent jobs,” according to the company’s statement.

State Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, one of four registered speakers at next week’s public hearing, said he is not yet concerned about the secrecy surrounding the casino plans.

“Hopefully, we’ll get it all cleared up at the hearing,” Dunbar said.

He suggested changes to the ownership structure of the proposed casino might explain the ongoing silence.

Stadium Casino LLC originally was a partnership between Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming Co., which operates Parx Casino in Bucks County. It also was the license holder for a delayed $600 million casino project in south Philadelphia.

State gaming board members are expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal for Cordish to take full control of both the Philadelphia project and the proposed Westmoreland mini casino.

McGarvey said Cordish is expected to ask the gaming board to approve a three-year extension for it to complete the Philadelphia casino. No extensions have been sought for the Westmoreland project, he said.

The proposed Westmoreland casino is one of five mini gaming facilities expected to open throughout Pennsylvania.

The gaming board will conduct a public hearing Dec. 4 for a proposed mini casino in Beaver County.

The board last month held a public hearing for a small casino slated for a York County mall. Penn National Gaming, operators of Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg, pitched a $120 million project for the gaming facility that also included casual dining, and racing and sports betting at an 80,000-square-foot location at the York Galleria mall. Owners said that casino could be opened in early 2020.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]

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