Pennsylvania’s new resort casino license is going to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in Fayette County.
The resort, located about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, beat out applications from the Poconos, the Harrisburg area, and a high-profile plan to build a casino a few miles from the Gettysburg battlefield.
The Gaming Board had been deadlocked for months, but reached the required supermajority consensus after Keith McCall and Tony Moscato replaced Jeffrey Coy and Ken McCabe earlier this year. In order to award a license, all four legislative appointees and at least one of the governor’s three picks need to agree on an application. Ken Trujillo was today’s lone dissenting vote – he supported the Poconos bid.
Nemacolin founder Joe Hardy was beside himself after the vote, comparing the decision to a Super Bowl win. “Thrilled, thrilled,” he said. “I’d like to be able to jump, but I can’t! It’s great. It’s wonderful.”
The dozens of Gettysburg casino opponents at the hearing were just as happy. They gasped when the first Nemacolin votes were recorded, and burst into cheers when the result was announced. “Long live Gettysburg!” yelled one man.
Tanya Wagner of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, broke into tears when she talked to a reporter afterwards. “This is the second time in five years that we’ve gone through this, “she said, “and we were so afraid.” Wagner was worried the casino “would have changed the character of the community and undermined the whole definition of what Gettysburg is.”
“There are thousands of casinos,” said Wagner. “There’s only one Gettysburg.”
The project’s spokesman, David La Torre, dismissed the opposition as “bluster and noise,” arguing “Adams County supported our project.”
“All you have to do is look at the official Gaming Control Board records,” he said. “When it came time to talk about our project, when it came time for the public to come forward, more supporters than opponents testified at our public hearing.”
Mason Dixon Resorts and the other losing bids will have a month to appeal the decision, once the Board issues its formal report in the coming weeks. Nemacolin, meanwhile, is hoping to open up its new casino within a year of the board’s formal license issuance. The project is expected to cost $50 million.
The resort’s president, Maggie Hardy Magerko, dismissed the idea Nemacolin was the “safe” pick, given the controversy surrounding the Gettysburg bid. “I don’t know if it was less complicated,” she said. “Again, I’m going to back to the amenities. It has to be a well-established resort. And we are a well-established resort. We have been for over 20 years. …If you’ve been to Nemacolin, there isn’t much there that we don’t have except the ocean.”
“We’re working on that,” added Hardy.
The casino, named “Lady Luck Nemacolin,” will have 600 slot machines – the legal limit for category 3 licenses — as well as 28 table games.