arx Casino is looking for a satellite casino site in Shippensburg Township, with public hearings on the matter expected to be held by both the township and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in the coming weeks.
A previous proposal by Parx’s parent company, Greenwood Racing and Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, for a mini-casino next to Interstate 81 was paused in 2019 after issues with sinkholes were discovered on the site. The casino now has a new location lined up at the former Lowe’s building at 250 Conestoga Drive, The Sentinel reports. The 139,410 square foot big-box site would be converted into a casino with approximately 600 gaming seats and approximately 250 seats for a restaurant and a sports bar, according to the zoning application filed with Shippensburg Township.
The casino and eatery would not occupy the entire Lowe’s building. Mark Stewart, an attorney for Parx, said “some compatible use is anticipated” for the remaining section of the building under a deal that is being finalized.
The project is the result of Pennsylvania’s 2017 gaming expansion law. Under the legislation, the Gaming Control Board has auctioned the rights to establish satellite casinos, with only existing operators of flagship casinos able to bid. Parx’s flagship casino is in Bensalem Township in Bucks County, just northeast of Philadelphia.
Greenwood secured rights for a Parx satellite location in 2018, but its first two proposed sites — in Carlisle Borough and South Middleton Township — did not get off the ground after the borough council and township supervisors declined to revoke the casino opt-out clauses that they had exercised under the 2017 gaming expansion.
However, Shippensburg Township did not utilize the opt-out clause, and allows casinos in commercial zoning districts under a conditional use ordinance, which requires the prospective operator to meet additional site-specific requirements. Greenwood representatives filed a conditional use application with the township on March 5 indicating it believes the Conestoga Drive location meets the requirements under the conditional use ordinance for casinos. A public hearing on the conditional use is scheduled for 8 a.m. April 3 at the township building at 81 Walnut Bottom Road.
The pitch two years ago for a Parx satellite on Cramer Road, directly adjacent to Interstate 81, went partway through the zoning process in Shippensburg Township. It was abandoned after geological issues were discovered on the property. The new plan, to re-purpose an existing building, would avoid such a problem.
The Gaming Control Board will also need to conduct a new round of public input for the new site before giving final approval to the change of location on Greenwood’s permit. A hearing is expected to be scheduled in the coming weeks, board spokesman Doug Harbach said.
On Wednesday, the board also approved an agreement between the casino operator and gaming enforcement staff regarding a traffic survey for the new location. Because the Conestoga Drive site is over a mile from the Exit 29 interchange on I-81, Greenwood representatives did not believe it should be included in the state’s traffic analysis, while gaming enforcement staff disagreed.
Under the arrangement approved Wednesday, Exit 29 will be included in the traffic study, but the casino’s financial liability for any improvements needed in the expanded study area — such as lane expansions or signal changes at Exit 29 — will be pro-rated and also subject to a dollar-value cap to be determined by the gaming control board.