Pennsylvania Gambling Regulator Holds Public Hearing on $21-Million Big Beaver Mini-Casino

Mount Airy targets early to mid-2020 opening of its Big Beaver mini-casino, the facility will look to attract customers from neighboring Ohio

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hosted Tuesday a public hearing in Big Beaver to hear additional details about a proposed mini-casino by the owners of Mount Airy Casino Resort. Developers presented a summary of their 400-page application with the state gaming regulator to a packed room at the Big Beaver fire hall.

The Gaming Control Board selected in February Mount Airy as the winning bidders for the construction of one of five mini-casinos across the state. The casino operator presented a $21,888,888.88 winning bid for the development of a gaming facility on 100 acres of land in Big Beaver, just off Interstate 376. The proposed site of the mini-casino is located just a 30-minute drive from Youngstown, Ohio and 45 minutes from Pittsburgh.

Developers have previously said that with the site’s proximity to the 500,000-plus population of Youngstown, their facility would be able to draw visitors from Ohio.

Mount Airy officials said Tuesday that they will be targeting early 2020 opening of Mount Airy Pittsburgh, their Big Beaver mini-casino. The facility is expected to create 250 construction jobs and 500 full-time jobs once fully operational. Full-time jobs will include three types of positions – gaming employees, administrative staff, and facilities workers.

Aside from the gaming floor with 750 slot machines and 30 table games, the mini-casino will also feature dining and entertainment options.

According to early projections, Mount Airy Pittsburgh will contribute $400,000 a year to Big Beaver. That amount equates to half of the borough’s annual budget, the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania’s gambling laws.

Mount Airy said that if it is given the green light by the Gaming Control Board, they expect construction to take about 16 months. Developers previously said they hoped they would be able to open the casino by the end of 2019. Michael Sklar, an attorney for the casino, said Tuesday that was a very optimistic plan and that casino officials now target early to mid-2020 opening of the facility.

Mixed Opinions

Residents, community leaders, and other involved parties were able to voice their opinion about the casino proposal during the Tuesday hearing. Some of those who attended the event expressed their support for the plan, saying that it would generate jobs, possibly bring young people back to Big Beaver, generate revenue for local communities, and many more.

Board members asked Mount Airy a number of questions on the presentation made by casino officials and expressed concerns that the county might not be able to provide enough construction workers for the casino project as another high-profile development project – the Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant – is already underway.

Mount Airy Vice President of Finance Patrick Burke said Tuesday that the right actions will be taken so that local workers get the bulk of the jobs available.

There were also objections voiced to the casino plan. A resident said during the hearing that the gaming facility will hurt local businesses due to its inclusive nature. As mentioned earlier, Mount Airy Pittsburgh will feature several food and beverage facilities in addition to the gaming floor.

The Gaming Control Board will now have to review all the public comments made in relation to the casino project as well as three written statements – two in favor of the plan and one opposing it. A final decision on whether Mount Airy will be allowed to build the facility will be announced next year.

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