It looks like Parx Casino will be coming to Shippensburg, but there’s a public hearing on May 20 to address any concerns

May 6 – A public hearing is pretty much the final step for Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, the parent company of Parx Casino, to begin work on a mini-casino in the old Lowes Building on Conestoga Drive near Walmart in Shippensburg.

The hearing will be held at 4 p.m. May 20 at the Luhrs Center in Shippensburg University.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will lead the meeting and senior executives from both Greenwood and Parx will be in attendance to answer any questions the community may have.

The public hearing is the final step in the licensing process with the Pa. Gaming Board. The board will then vote after the meeting whether to grant the license. Once that’s done, Greenwood will begin looking at construction.

There hasn’t been much public opposition to this. In fact, a group of students from Shippensburg University are apparently planning on attending the hearing to show their support.

Marc Oppenheimer, the Chief Marketing Officer for Greenwood Gaming, spoke with First News this morning about the project.

“Two major ways that there’s going to be economic impact,” Oppenheimer said. “One is going to be economic activity in actual dollars and the other is going to be jobs. On the economic activity, during construction, we’re estimating there will be $40 to $45 million worth of business to the community and when we’re open we’re estimating about a $60 million economic impact a year.”

In terms of safety and security, Greenwood has plans in the works.

“We figure we’ll have about 125 jobs on the property and a number of them will be involved in safety and security,” Oppenheimer explained. “We also know we’re going to need outside police presence. We have that at all of our other facilities. We have a great relationship with the Pennsylvania State Police. In Shippensburg, we recognize that there will need to be some discussions that take place that determine what is the best way to make sure there is police presence at the property. We know there are going to be conversations between us and the state police, the township and the borough to figure out what’s going to be the right way to do this. I can tell you we do not know what that answer is yet. However I can guarantee you we will have that answer and have police presence and safety and security guaranteed by the time the business would open.”

Pat Ryan, of News Talk 103.7FM, pointed out, “You’ve been awfully transparent, to your credit here, through this whole process.”

Greenwood also has traffic concerns well in hand.

“Everyone has traffic concerns when they hear that a new sizable business that’s going to have a lot of patrons and guests come to the area,” Oppenheimer said. “The reality of it is the way that a casino operates, it’s close to a 24-hour business, it operates much more like a big box retailer in terms of its traffic flow. So it will be very similar to a Walmart or a large grocery store or the Lowes that was in the space previously in terms of the traffic it’s going to generate. It’s not – and a lot of people think it is – but it’s not like having a stadium or an arena or a venue where everyone is coming in or coming out around the same time of an event and that causes traffic problems. With a business like the mini-casino, it’s a constant flow, so there really is not a noticeable increase in the traffic any more than a Walmart would have. So what we expect and what the traffic plans have shown is there are going to be a couple of places where we will likely re-time some traffic lights along with the township to get the flow of traffic to be better, but we do not expect there to be a significant impact.”

If traffic problems do arise, Greenwood will address them.

“If there are traffic problems, that’s as bad for us in our business as it is for the community because obviously if people have a tough time getting there, getting in, getting out, that’s going to hurt the business,” Oppenheimer said. “So if we would see anything like that happening, we’re going to be the first ones to jump in to rectify it and figure out how to solve any problems.”

In terms of religious and church concerns, Greenwood has done their due diligence in researching the issues.

“We obviously respect the opinions of everyone in the community and want to talk to them,” Oppenheimer said. “I have had this conversation with people in various other jurisdictions and areas where we have been entering and there is always two concerns that pop up. One is about crime and what happens when this business comes in, do bad people follow it? Does crime follow it? And the other is about problem gambling. Does it drive up gambling addiction problems in the area?”

Studies have shown that casinos do not increase crime in the areas they serve.

“In fact, in the Bensalem and Bucks County area where our large property is, the per capita crime rate has actually gone down in the decade that we have been there,” Oppenheimer said. “Some of that is due to the additional funds that we’ve been able to put into the economy and the community has been able to invest resources. There has been no evidence that having a casino in the community actually raises crime.”

In terms of gambling addictions, Greenwood actually looks to help people who need treatment.

“We are extremely focused on being a part of responsible gaming efforts and responsible gambling efforts,” Oppenheimer said. “We have a very strong relationship in Bucks Bounty with a treatment center. We will refer people to them. We train our staff to look for signs of someone that may be having a problem. We want people to come to us for entertainment. Yes, there is risk, yes they are putting money on the line, but it is for entertainment purposes and when we see someone that may be going beyond that, we’ve trained our staff to help identify them. We’ve trained others on our staff to approach them and have conversations about should you really be doing this? We do refer people over to treatment centers when it’s necessary.”

It’s important to remember with the advent of computer technology, gambling can technically be done anywhere at any time.

“Anybody at any time can go onto their phone or their computer and sign up for an online gambling account and be gambling real money in a very short period of time,” Oppenheimer said. “So yes, we will be bringing a physical property into the area, but we’re not bringing a product into the area that doesn’t already exist in the area. Anyone that wants to be gambling in the Shippensburg and Chambersburg area right now can hop onto their phone or their computer and be gambling within ten minutes.”

Overall, the Parx Casino in Shippensburg should add a lot to the community.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll noted, “I think this is going to move forward. It’s going to be a tremendous boom economically for that area from a tax standpoint. Remember it’s not just the casino, of course that’s the focus of it, but there will be an area for shows, a stage, arena type atmosphere, restaurants. So you’re going to see a lot of activity at that property over the years.”