First Amish Casino Coming to Pennsylvania?

  • Pennsylvania has expanded its gambling laws in recent years, adding online gaming and sports betting
  • Satellite casinos are also now legal and ten licenses are available
  • Penn National wants to open a casino in Caernarvon Township, but many locals are opposed
Three young Amish men in open buggy
Penn National plans to open a satelite casino in the Caernarvon Township, but a lot of locals are opposed.

Gambling expansion in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a very successful casino sector. The state is second only to Nevada in casino revenues.

Pennsylvania has continually been expanding its gambling laws. The move to legalize satellite casinos came in 2017 and ten of these licenses are now available. Five of the licenses were sold at auction for a total of $127m (£98m).

Pennsylvania also legalized both retail and online sports betting in November 2018. The license fee is a hefty $10m (£7.7m).

The tax rate is 36% of sports betting revenues. The only US state with a higher tax rate on sports betting is Rhode Island, at 51%.

Expansion of satellite casinos

There are 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania and more than 1,000 of them opted not to get involved in hosting one of the new satellite casinos. However, a county in the midst of the state’s Amish country did not opt out.

Caernarvon Township is seen as a gateway to the Amish Country. Penn National plan on locating its Hollywood Casino Morgantown in that township. This casino will cover more than 81,000 square foot in size and will have more than 750 gaming machines and 30 table games, along with entertainment facilities.

Many residents of the region are against these plans. A descendant of the former owners of the land on which this casino is to be built is troubled by the move.

Edward Kurtz’s Mennonite grandparents formerly owned the 36-acre site. The 86-year-old Kurtz told a local Fox News station: “Right about where my grandparents’ house was where they want to put a casino, so I’m upset and very sad for me and my community.”

The area is largely religiously conservative and there are many signs around the region saying: “Don’t gamble with our future.”

A lot of locals do not see what good will come of having a casino in the area. An anonymous Amish elder says, “It’s the opposite of what this community is built on, hard work and honesty.”

There are fears that after the development of this casino, many Amish people in the region will relocate to other parts of the state.

Ongoing concerns

Community leaders from different backgrounds fear that a casino will attract the wrong sort of people and they do not want local residents to develop gambling issues.

A public hearing on the issue was held in March. Leaders of the township sided with Penn National, saying that it will be a great boost for the tax revenues of the town.

However, a lot of the public in attendance disagreed.

Positive aspects

Tax revenues from the casino will help fund better emergency services in the area and road improvements. The current annual budget for the town is $2.6m (£2.0m).

It is estimated that a casino will increased tax revenues by $1.6m (£1.2m). It will also create non-manufacturing jobs, which is unusual for the region.

The vice president of Penn National Gaming, Jeff Morris, said: “We look forward to the opportunity to bring approximately 275 new construction jobs and 250 new permanent jobs to the area.”

Some local business owners are also happy about this new casino because it will stimulate their businesses.

The final hurdle to casino development in the region is license approval. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will decide on the issue in May.