Supporters of the mini-casino plan hail tax revenue projections, while opponents fear the facility will harm community values and traditions
Residents, business and community leaders, and town officials are split on whether Shippensburg should host one of ten mini-casinos approved by the government of Pennsylvania in 2017 as part of a sweeping gambling overhaul.
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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held a hearing on the matter on Monday at the conference room of the Shippensburg University Foundation. The event drew a crowd of residents and other interested parties and saw mixed opinions being voiced on the future of a mini-casino project spearheaded by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment.
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The operator of Parx Casino finally selected Shippensburg as the preferred host of its mini-casino last fall after two previous unsuccessful attempts to secure land for the facility. Greenwood’s planned casino in the town will feature 475 slot machines, 40 table game seats, and a sportsbook just off Exit 29 of Interstate 81.
Greenwood CEO Tony Ricci has previously said that the facility, once fully operational, is projected to create about 200 full- and part-time jobs and to contribute $1.8 million in direct host community payments to Shippensburg and Cumberland County and $43 million in economic impact for the region.
Interest in the project has been huge since Greenwood secured the portion of land where the mini-casino would be built, if the company gets the go-ahead from Pennsylvania’s gambling regulator. And while town officials, business leaders, and first responders mostly spoke in support of the proposed gaming facility, residents of the area seemed less enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting a business of this kind.
Economy Booster or Community Tradition Breaker?
Shippensburg Township Supervisor Steve Oldt was among the officials to express support for the casino project during the Monday hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. He said that the revenue contributions of the proposed gaming venue as well as the addition to Shippensburg’s property tax base will help the town ease property taxes to residents and will provide funds for volunteer fire and other emergency services, which desperately need new revenue streams.
Mr. Oldt pointed out that the benefits from a mini-casino will “far outweigh any marginal risk, and will provide a long-term economic benefit.” Representatives from volunteer fire companies said during the Monday hearing that they are “looking forward with excitement to the possibility of future financial support” through the gaming facility.
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There were also less enthusiastic comments during the event, with residents of the area voicing concerns that a casino would bring big-city values to a small town surrounded by farmland and populated by Amish communities.
Supporters of the casino argued that the facility would generate revenues to support assistance and counseling programs that would aim to help people affected by increased gambling in the area. Church and human service agency leaders noted that instead of asking the gaming venue for money to support human services agencies’ work, they should not allow said gaming venue that will only increase the need for human services.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expected to announce its decision on whether the proposed Shippensburg casino will be built in the next few months. The regulator’s ruling will be based on the community’s response to the plan as well as on analyses about the facility’s economic prospects, traffic and land development considerations and through background checks of Greenwood.
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