The Caernarvon Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 12 to approve the land development plan for Hollywood Casino Morgantown, bringing the Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming Inc. one step closer to building a mini-casino in southern Berks County.
Despite objections by local residents, the supervisors approved Penn National Gaming's preliminary and final plans for the $111-million Hollywood Casino at Morgantown.
The next official step involves the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which is reviewing the application and will schedule a second public hearing on the proposal.
The mini-casino, planned to be erected in the township on 36 vacant acres off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Route 10 and Interstate 176, will pump $94.3 million into the local economy, creating 250 permanent jobs with workers earning $9.6 million. The targeted opening date is fall or winter of 2020.
The 85,000-square-foot casino project will include 70 percent of the floor being penny slots with the rest being blackjack, craps, carnival games, waging and sports betting, as well as a 200-seat restaurant, lounge, a "grab-and-go" food hall and 1,000 parking spaces. There will be 250 full-time workers.
While more than 50 people attended the March 12 Supervisors meeting, a crowd of more than 250 came out for the March 4 gaming board public hearing. Hollywood Casino executives and spokespeople detailed the plans and 45 registered speakers gave testimony, most opposing the casino while a minority showed their support.
Two petitions circulating in the community includes signatures of more than 1,000 opposing and 156 in support of the casino. Those petitions were presented to Caernarvon Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Allen Styer on March 4. Styer entered the petitions into the official record.
“Solicitors are now proceeding to work out the details, including the licensing from the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission,” said Caernarvon Township Administrator and Township Secretary Joan A. Bair. “At last night’s meeting we had 50 plus people with a lot of new faces.”
“The supervisor’s positive attitude for the casino is partially driven by the fact that the township has not raised taxes in 20 years and hopes this new revenue will keep things that way,” Bair added. “The state, county and township by law profit from casino revenues.”
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesperson Richard McGarvey provided a statement: “We are still in the investigative steps of the licensing. This process entails investigating financials, suitable background and any lawsuits held by the Hollywood Casino."
"In addition, by law we held the public hearing on March 4 locally in the township so that all interested parties had an opportunity to speak. The board takes public comment into consideration, it is highly important to us. We have in our possession the two petitions that were circulated, one opposing and one supporting the casino. All this information will be put up on our website gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov along with the video streamed live from the hearing.”
There were remarks made at the March 12 meeting that people who are not residents of Caernarvon Township, but rather residents of adjoining boroughs, townships, and counties are making their voices known in what some say is township business.
“We are still in the process of making our final decision and a public hearing will be held in Harrisburg when all our findings are determined. In the past we have had many citizens from the local areas travel for the hearing although no public comment is allowed at that stage,” said McGarvey.