The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board rejected Endeka Entertainment’s casino license application and the deadline to appeal the decision is fast approaching. Lawmakers in the state are now debating on alternate options if the license lapses. The license is for the final harness track and casino facility of the state which had been sought by Endeka to develop a racetrack and casino named Lawrence Downs in Lawrence County.
A ruling was passed in August by the state Gaming Control Board stating that the license application by Endeka was rejected due to its inability to obtain and maintain financing for the project. The ruling upheld a vote passed by the Board in July rejecting the proposal. The deadline for appealing the decision is Sept. 28.
State Rep. John Payne, chairman of the state Gaming Oversight Committee, called a meeting last week to discuss a proposal introduced by him which will cancel the Category I license set aside for Lawrence County and create a fresh Category II stand-alone casino license.
In a statement, state Rep. Chris Sainato describing Payne’s stance said
He [Payne] takes the position that there has been no financing available for the combined harness racing/casino project in the past 10 years. He believes if the licenses are withdrawn they could be reissued separately — and proposes legislation to do so
Payne said that there was more interest in a gaming license for a stand-alone casino and financing for such a project will be far easier to obtain. As a part of the hearing, Payne shared his proposals to put the license for Lawrence County back into safekeeping but also said that it was in favor of the state to keep the license open for revenue generating opportunities.
Joe Thomson, president of the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania opposed the idea saying that converting the license would harm the agricultural community and hit job creating prospects.
Sainato said that if the license was split he would be able to include an attachment that would enable Lawrence County to have the first chance to win the license. He highlighted that in case Endeka is unable to be succeed, the process for selecting a developer for Category I license would need to be restarted and it would take up to four years to conclude it.
A standalone casino license would however need only around one year and anyone across the state barring a few cities could apply. According to Sainato, it will require $200 million in financing for acquiring a casino license. He however pointed out that these processes would come into play only if Endeka does not appeal the decision.