- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Baltimore-based developer that is building a casino in Philadelphia’s stadium district won the right Wednesday to put up a smaller casino clear across Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, in the second auction of licenses newly authorized by the state.

The Cordish Cos., a family-owned commercial developer that specializes in entertainment districts, submitted the winning bid of $40.1 million, selecting a portion of Westmoreland County in which to build.

That area includes Greensburg, 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Pittsburgh, and is close to the intersection of Interstate 70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Cordish beat out three other Pennsylvania casino owners for the right to the license.

A Cordish executive, Travis Lamb, gave few details about the developer’s plans but said Cordish will consider building an entertainment district around the casino.

“We feel there’s demand in that region, unsatisfied demand at this point that we can have a profitable casino there,” Lamb said.

Southwestern Pennsylvania already is home to three casinos, although this would be Westmoreland County’s first.

A minority partner in the Westmoreland County casino is London-based businessman Watche Manoukian, who owns the controlling stake in Parx Casino in suburban Philadelphia and is a minority partner with Cordish in its Live! Hotel & Casino project in Philadelphia.

The only other gambling property owned by the Cordish Cos. is Maryland Live! Casino, in suburban Baltimore.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is auctioning the rights to 10 mini-casinos that can each host up to 750 slot machines, a venture approved last fall by lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in an effort to help the deficit-strapped state scrape up cash.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s No. 2 state for commercial casino gross revenues, second to Nevada, and already rakes in more tax revenue from gambling - $1.4 billion in the most recent fiscal year - than any other state.

The other bidders Wednesday were the owners of Mount Airy Casino Resort, Parx Casino and Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands. Minimum bids are $7.5 million, and license winners can pay another $2.5 million to operate 30 table games.

Penn National won the first license two weeks ago, bidding $50.1 million to put a mini-casino in an area of south-central Pennsylvania that includes the city of York.

Cordish won a casino license in 2014 to build the Live! Hotel & Casino in Philadelphia. That license allows up to 5,000 slot machines under Pennsylvania’s original casino law.

It got the green light to build it late last year after a rival, SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, dropped a long-running lawsuit.

The last of the auctions for the 10 mini-casino licenses is scheduled for May 16. If the state’s casinos don’t snap up all 10 licenses, regulators could schedule auctions to take bids from out-of-state casino operators.

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