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Pennsylvania gaming expansion proceeds, with a few bumps in the road

Bethlehem-based Sands Casino — owned by Las Vegas Sands — appeared to make a winning $9.9 million bid for a Northwest Pennsylvania satellite location in Hempfield Township.
On review, the state Gaming Control Board realized there was a problem. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Bethlehem-based Sands Casino — owned by Las Vegas Sands — appeared to make a winning $9.9 million bid for a Northwest Pennsylvania satellite location in Hempfield Township. On review, the state Gaming Control Board realized there was a problem. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania’s gambling industry is midway through a significant shift, with bidding currently underway for existing casinos to acquire newly legal satellite locations.

The process is already raking in more money than lawmakers anticipated, but not everything is going off without a hitch.

The most recent bidding process had to go back to square one after a casino misjudged the state’s placement requirements.

On Tuesday, Bethlehem-based Sands Casino — owned by Las Vegas Sands — appeared to make a winning $9.9 million bid for a Northwest Pennsylvania satellite location in Hempfield Township.

But on review, the state Gaming Control Board realized there was a problem.

Board spokesman Doug Harbach said the location Sands chose would have put it too close to a New Castle site Mount Airy Casino picked in the last bid, and so it overlapped with the state-mandated 15-mile buffer zone between casinos.

“We only open one envelope, and that’s the high bidder’s envelope to show their location,” he said, when asked why the mistake wasn’t found sooner.

“So, we didn’t know that there was an issue in regards to their reserved area.”

A new auction was quickly scheduled for the following day. The second-place winner, Bensalem-based Parx Casino — owned by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc.— was awarded a Cumberland County location for $8.1 million.

That’s the fourth — and by far the smallest — offer in the licensing process so far.

All told, the state has made almost $120 million on new casino fees — $20 million more than lawmakers anticipated.

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