The small borough of Shippensburg, Pa., is best known for being home to one of the 14 state universities in Pennsylvania. But the parent company of the Parx Casino near Philadelphia, the largest gaming venue in the state, is seeking to bring slot machines, table games, and a sportsbook to the college town.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) held a public meeting on the proposed casino in Shippensburg last week, and residents made it clear they aren’t in a welcoming mood for Parx.
We don’t want you here,” said Rev. Jim Rogers, a pastor at the Shippensburg First Church of God. “All of the lights and the big-screen TVs mean nothing to us. That doesn’t help the suffering that comes when people lose their money so that you can get rich, when people have a hard time feeding their children, paying their rent, and dealing with the addictions that come with it.”
Parx Casino is owned and operated by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment. The company obtained the rights to a satellite casino license during a 2018 auction with a winning bid of $8.1 million.
Category 4 casino licenses were authorized under the state’s major expansion of gaming in 2017. The venues are permitted to house up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games.
One by one, locals in the Shippensburg area told the PGCB that they’re concerned with the potential societal harms a casino might bring. Rogers described the town as a backdrop right out of a Hallmark movie, and gambling will damage that idyllic setting.
Supporters of the casino pointed to the tax revenue that the venue will bring, plus the 100 full-time positions Parx says the property will create. “There are plenty of jobs out there right now,” countered resident Anastasia Hummer. “I go around Shippensburg and every single place has hiring signs.”
Parx says its workforce would average $40,000 per year, plus benefits. Roughly 15 percent of Shippensburg lives below the federal poverty line.
“If you care about poor people, let’s try to get them jobs,” argued local Josh Rosetta. “I’m not going to say that every poor person can’t handle themselves, and all of a sudden they’re going to go gambling.”
While opponents to the Parx Casino spoke loudly regarding gaming addictions, there were plenty in attendance who lent their backing to the gaming facility. Unlike hundreds of other townships and municipalities in Pennsylvania, Shippensburg’s Board of Supervisors did not opt out of Category 4 consideration.
I think this is a gamble the Shippensburg community should take,” said Linda Asper, one of the township supervisors.
Parx is proposing building its satellite casino inside a former Lowe’s store at 250 Conestoga Drive. The blueprint calls for 500 slot machines, 48 table games, and sports bar.
Parx forecasts that Shippensburg Township would receive $741,000 annually from gaming revenue taxes earmarked for the host community. That’s more than half of the municipality’s current yearly budget of $1.4 million.
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