Can casinos save the mall?
In Pennsylvania, mini-casinos later this year will replace a Sears at York Galleria Mall and a Bon-Ton at Westmoreland Mall.
Las Vegas illustrates the potential of mixing gambling and retailing. According to a recent profile in the New York Times, the opening of Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1992 demonstrated the opportunity for street-front retail. Many lavish flagships have since arrived on the Strip to support a thriving retail scene. Previously, most retail shops were only located inside casinos.
The Times report also noted that casino retailing benefits by attracting a constantly changing mix of customers, unlike an area such as Times Square that still counts many local residents and office workers among its daily traffic.
In Pennsylvania, it is hoped that the mini-casinos will support local jobs, spur development and revitalize the malls. A law enacted in 2017 allowed existing casinos to construct such smaller, satellite casinos.
At Westmoreland Mall outside Greensburg, PA, Live! Casino Pittsburgh is expected to open this summer in a former Bon-Ton with 750 slot machines, 30 table games, a sportsbook area and dining and entertainment options. About 500 permanent jobs and $188 million in annual economic impact is projected. Beyond Bon-Ton, the mall also recently lost a Sears.
At York Galleria Mall, the Hollywood Casino York will bring 500 slot machines and 24 table games as well as sports betting and entertainment options to a vacant Sears to draw customers from south central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. About 200 permanent jobs and $1 million in annual tax and fee revenue are projected. The mall has also lost a Bon-Ton and J.C. Penney in recent years and now counts Boscov’s, Marshalls and Gold’s Gym as anchors.
In both cases, the potential negative impacts of the casinos were outweighed at public hearings by the promised community benefits. Expressed concerns included an increase in crime, gambling addiction, a drop in property values and each casinos’ proximity to schools and playgrounds in the surrounding areas.
Casinos remain highly-regulated, but states appear increasingly open to gambling as an economic driver with many recently legalizing online sports betting and gaming.
- On Las Vegas Strip, Splashy Stores Elbow In Alongside Casinos – The New York Times
- Live Casino!
- The Cordish Companies Breaks Ground On New $150 Million Live! Casino Project – The Cordish Companies
- Penn National Gaming Receives Licensing Approval for Hollywood Casino York – Penn National Gaming/Business Wire
- Mini-casino at York Galleria mall granted gambling license – York Daily Record
- Groundbreaking set for Westmoreland Mall casino – Trib Live
- State approves gambling license for York-area mini-casino – Penn Live
- State board OKs Hollywood Casino gambling license in Springetts – York Dispatch
- Stadium Casino Westmoreland RE, LLC Awarded Category 4 Gaming License for $150 Million Live! Casino Pittsburgh Project – The Cordish Companies/PRNewswire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How open should shopping development operators and their tenants be to adding casinos to retail malls? Have the risks and negative perceptions around casinos lessened over the years?