On Wednesday, April 19, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) held its sixth mini-casino license auction in Harrisburg. The board received no bids for the sixth mini-casino license something that according to experts, puts the auctions of the remaining licenses in a rather tight spot. Already, state regulators are pondering about opening the remaining licenses to bidding by non-casino business in the state or even out-of-state casino operator. This applies to the sixth one as well as it goes to the third and final round of bidding.
The board has the option of opening the field of qualifies bidders that has so far been off-limits to the operators of Pennsylvania’s existing casinos. This decision is yet to be made and once it is made, the board will announce it at a later date. If the board chooses to conduct more auctions, it will have to establish suitable criteria and procedures that will be used to justify the qualification of the entities that wish to bid on the licenses.
It is however very likely that the decision will be similar to the one that was made for the March auction of the fifth mini-casino license. Like the case with the sixth mini-casino license, no bids were received and the PGCB was forced to include operators of two relatively smaller resort casinos in the bidding process. The winning bid, however, came earlier this month when a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming known as Thoroughbred Racing Association offered the board $3 over the $7.5 million minimum.
The Keystone state had planned to auction off 10 mini-casino licenses in an effort to make up for its financial shortfalls. Each of the mini gambling halls can host up to 40 table games and as many as 750 slot machines. So far, the state has been able to amass $127 million from the auction of the first five mini casino licenses – officials originally estimated a total of $100 million for all the 10 mini-casino licenses. Therefore, the initial rounds of auctions might as well be over but we will have to wait for the board’s decision before we can be certain of any developments in this regard.