Economic Development

Mercer, Lawrence Look for Spinoff from Beaver Casino

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Economic development leaders in Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania are optimistic that their communities will benefit from a mini-casino to be built in neighboring Beaver County.

Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, announced plans Monday for Mount Airy Pittsburgh, a casino and destination development at a site off Interstate 376 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. According to a company news release, the site in Big Beaver Borough is less than 20 miles from Cranberry Township, the borough of Sewickley and the Ohio state line.

In February, Mount Airy Casino Resort won an auction for the coveted Category 4 casino license for a site within a 15-mile protected radius of New Castle, spurring efforts by leaders in both communities to attract the project.

“Obviously we’re disappointed but we’re extremely happy that it’s going to be in the area,” said Randy Seitz, president and CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp. in Sharon.

Mount Airy bid $21.2 million in February for the license. Plans call for breaking ground by the end of the year on Mount Airy Pittsburgh, which will feature 750 slot machines, 30 table games and a high-limit area.

“We’re thrilled to bring our four-diamond customer service, high-quality entertainment and luxurious amenities to Beaver County and the surrounding communities, while contributing a positive lasting impact on the local economy,” said Lisa DeNaples, owner and managing trustee of Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos.

“We envision the casino as just the start of building something truly special for the tri-state area,” she continued. “Imagine not just a casino, but a destination that raises industry-wide expectations and standards — serving as a phenomenal gathering space for celebrations and live entertainment and bringing upwards of 700 jobs to regional residents.”

In March, Seitz noted that Springfield Township, the home of the Grove City Premium Outlets, would fall within the 15-mile radius for the license. The site Mount Airy chose will have access to Mercer, Lawrence, Butler and Beaver counties, none of which alone can supply the estimated 600 to 800 workers the casino is expected to employ, providing job opportunities throughout the region, he said.

“I can’t imagine people will come this long distance and not shop in the outlet mall,” he added. “Our restaurants will benefit. Some of our hotels will benefit.”

“I’m happy for our friends in Beaver County. It’s certainly going to have a regional impact,” said Alex McCoy, CEO of the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce in New Castle.

The chamber served in a “supporting role” to the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners, who also pursued the project, he added.

Mount Airy brought in its own analysts to study where the casino would draw, said Peggy Mazyck, president and CEO of VisitMercerCountyPA.

“They wanted major populations in very close vicinity,” she said. While Springfield Township receives more than six million visitors annually, it lacked the local population density Mount Airy officials desired.

Still, Seitz is encouraged by the effort put forth by local organizations, bringing his agency, Mercer County’s commissioners and the county tourist promotion agency “together with a single vision,” even if the initiative was unsuccessful.

“It didn’t work very well this time but there will be other projects,” he said. “As we learn to work together better, we’re going to increase the probability that we will entice other tourism-related or destination-related projects to our community.”

Mount Airy supports local initiatives near its Poconos property and has invested over $1 million back into the local community, according to DeNaples. “We’re excited to engage with community leaders and residents right away,” she said. “Our goal is to become meaningfully engrained within the community through robust job training opportunities and the support of local initiatives.”

Daniel Camp III, chairman of Beaver County Board of Commissioners, noted the casino investment comes during “an exciting time of economic development in Beaver County.” The site is near the huge cracker plant that Shell Chemical is building in Monaca, which is expected to spur development of the petrochemical industry across the region.

“I welcome the economic growth and entertainment options this will bring not only to the citizens of Beaver County, but to those in neighboring regions,” Camp said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.