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Pa. gaming control board invalidates bid for Mercer County casino

The Gaming Control Board says the proposal in the area of Hempfield Township is too close to Lawrence County's location

HEMPFIELD TWP., Pa. (WKBN) - First they had it and then six hours later, Mercer County's luck ran out. Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem's $9.8 million winning bid to build a mini casino in the county was invalid.

"My first reaction was, 'Why?' And so I actually called the PA Gaming Control Board and they said the coordinates crossed over into Mount Airy's protected territory," said Peggy Mazyck, with the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

What that means is Sands' proposal for a mini casino in the 15-mile radius of Hempfield Township actually crosses over the area which had previously been secured by the winning proposal made from Mount Airy to build a mini casino in Lawrence County.

"Whenever I heard about that overlap, it became a disappointment, obviously," said Mercer County Commissioner Matt McConnell.

Even with that disappointment comes a shred of hope.

"We're going to be resilient," McConnell said. "We're going to bounce back one way or another. This isn't that we had jobs here and we lost them, this was an opportunity, I do believe, quite frankly, over the next few weeks that may change."

Because Mount Airy's coordinates cross into Mercer County, it could, technically, still build there.

"There is a lot of hope that we'll be able to get a casino. Our interest is becoming an off-season destination," Mazyck said.

"Plus there's six more auctions after that that could occur where they might readjust that or another company may be interested, so we hold out hope and look forward to additional growth here in Mercer County," McConnell said.

The PA Gaming Control Board is considering awarding the fourth Category 4 casino auction to the second and only other bidder. Representatives plan to meet again on Thursday at 10 a.m. to pick a new location.

Each mini casino can have 750 slot machines and license holders can pay another $2.5 million to operate 30 table games. The first three licenses raised over $110 million.

Bids are limited to the state's licensed casino owners for now.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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