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Seven Springs seeks slots |

Seven Springs seeks slots

| Friday, August 26, 2005 12:00 a.m

Seven Springs, the popular resort in the Laurel Mountains, wants to offer its guests more than just skiing in the winter and golf in the summer.

Scott Bender, president of Seven Springs Resort, confirmed Thursday that an application will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board seeking a license for up to 500 slot machines.

“We’re planning on that effort,” Bender said. “We think that our chances are pretty good. We think we can be a very strong candidate with what the state expects to do with gambling.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers last year approved the creation of up to 14 slots licenses throughout the state.

At least seven licenses would be earmarked for horse racing tracks, while five additional licenses could be granted to stand-alone slots parlors, including one guaranteed for Pittsburgh. Those licenses will cost $50 million and allow up to 3,000 slot machines at each location.

State lawmakers also designated that two licenses — at a cost of $5 million each — be made available for existing resorts with at least 275 guest rooms on the property. Resorts throughout Pennsylvania that meet the state’s requirements are expected to apply for the limited slots licenses for up to 500 machines.

Two western Pennsylvania resorts are eligible for the limited slots licenses.

Seven Springs, a winter hot spot in the region, has guest 350 rooms in its hotel, as well as additional chalets and other accommodations. The resort averages about 1.2 million visitors a year.

“This would give us a substantial increase in visitors. This will help us grow our slower periods,” Bender said.

The luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, founded by 84 Lumber Co. magnate Joe Hardy, is also eligible for the license. Officials there have suggested they also would seek a slots license.

Nemacolin spokeswoman Kay Magham said yesterday that no official announcement has been made about the resort’s intentions, but that an application for a slots license was likely.

“It’s pretty much common knowledge that Mr. Hardy is interested. I think (it is) pretty much known that he’s thinking about it. He’s said that if he’s granted a license, he’ll be open in 90 days,” Magham said.

Annie Urban, executive director for the Laurel Highlands Visitor’s Bureau, which serves as the tourism agency for Somerset, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, said she will lobby for both Seven Springs and Nemacolin Woodlands to receive the slots licenses.

“It will add another component of tourist amenities for people to come visit our region,” Urban said.

Gaming Board spokesman Nick Hayes said that resort license applications won’t be considered until later next year. Draft regulations for conditional licenses at the state’s existing horse racing tracks are still being finalized. Applications for those licenses will not be accepted until early 2006.

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