The state’s Gaming Control Board unanimously rejected a request Wednesday morning by Gettysburg-area casino developers to reconsider a licensing process that was called unfair and flawed.
As a result, investors behind the denied Mason Dixon Resort & Casino in Cumberland Township may appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach said the seven-member panel will release a written adjudication over the next week that will explain why it turned down the request.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday morning at the State Museum in Harrisburg, after an hour-long hearing
Mason Dixon spokesman David La Torre said following the board’s vote that his group is undecided over whether to file an appeal, but that one is “absolutely” under consideration.
An appeal would not be surprising, since every other licensing decision made by the state since gambling was legalized has been contested in court. The board awarded a slots license to the Nemacolin Resort (Woodlands Fayette) in mid-April over three competitors, including Gettysburg, and then issued its written explanation one month later. Only about a week remains until the appeal window closes.
“We are disappointed. This is a blow for transparency,” La Torre said after the board’s meeting in Harrisburg. La Torre cited a Grand Jury investigation that reviewed alleged deficiencies the Gaming Board’s licensing process. The report was not made public until after board awarded a casino license to Nemacolin, over Gettysburg and two other projects, prompting Mason Dixon investors to file the “petition for reconsideration” Tuesday.
“The grand jury report raised serious questions about how licenses were awarded in 2006,” explained La Torre. “The public is left no other option than to take the board’s word that it was different this time. The fact remains, Pennsylvania’s system for awarding gaming licenses is among the most secretive in the world.”
The Nemacolin Resort in southwest Pennsylvania cannot break ground on the casino until the appeals process concludes. Project spokesman Jeff Nobers said his group isn’t concerned about the recent legal action.
“They (Mason Dixon) are basing their petition on the Grand Jury report which in no manner mentions or refers to the awarding of the most recent Category 3 license to Nemacolin,” said Nobers. “The issues raised in this report are all prior to this process.”
No Casino Gettysburg spokesman Susan Star Paddock said Mason Dixon is “grasping at straws” and “continuing to drag our community” into what she called a “hopeless and destructive request.”
Gaming advocate Richard Kitner, of Pro Casino Adams County said his group has “supported Mason Dixon in the past and we continue to support Mason Dixon now,” regardless of the outcome in the appeals process.
State gambling regulators chose the 2,000-acre Nemacolin Resort for the license in western Pennsylvania, calling it the “best fit” for the license, with the potential to generate the most new revenue for the state, as it draws 350,000 visitors annually, and is located the farthest from other Pennsylvania casinos. Opposition was cited in denying the Gettysburg-area project, although its proximity to the boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park was not a factor in the decision. The casino would have been managed by Penn National Gaming.
Groups in the Poconos and Mechanicsburg that were also denied the license are still deciding whether to file an appeal.