- Penn National Gaming has announced a December 22 grand opening date for the Hollywood Casino Morgantown in Morgantown, Pennsylvania.
- The 80,000 square-foot facility will feature 750 of the latest slot machines and 30 table games along with a state-of-the art Barstool Sportsbook retail location.
- Hollywood Casino Morgantown will be Penn National’s fourth gaming property in Pennsylvania joining the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Hollywood Casino at the Meadows in Washington and Hollywood Casino York.
Penn National Gaming is wrapping up another big year with the announcement that their newest retail casino is almost ready to open. The Hollywood Casino Morgantown will have a grand opening on December 22–as always ‘pending regulatory approval’. It will be Penn National’s fourth retail casino in Pennsylvania joining the joining the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Hollywood Casino at the Meadows in Washington and Hollywood Casino York. The Hollywood Casino Morgantown is located at 6021 Morgantown Rd, Morgantown, PA 19543.
Marc Guastella, Vice President and General Manager for Hollywood Casino Morgantown, is raring to go:
“The countdown to our grand opening begins today. We’re very excited to soon welcome patrons to this beautiful new property, where they’ll be able to experience premier gaming, dining and entertainment.”
The Hollywood Casino Morgantown will feature the second Barstool Sportsbook retail location in the state of Pennsylvania. The first Barstool branded sportsbook was launched at the Hollywood Casino York which opened in August. The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and the Hollywood Casino at the Meadows both have sportbooks but they currently operate as ‘The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino’ and the ‘Sportsbook at the Meadows’. The Meadows property is in the process of rebranding the sportsbook under the Barstool name. Presumably, the Penn National Race Course location will do so at some point. The Barstool Sportsbook mobile app is already available in Pennsylvania.
The plans for the Barstool Sportsbook at the Hollywood Casino Morgantown sound very impressive. Here’s how the press release described it:
At the Barstool Sportsbook, patrons will be able to enjoy sports from around the world on the jumbotron above the bar or on numerous high-definition televisions throughout the facility. The 150 seat full-service restaurant will offer a wide selection of food and beverage options, from mouth-watering steaks to classic pubfare, more than a dozen craft and domestic beers, hand-crafted cocktails inspired by classic sports movies and much more. Betting windows and kiosks for sports and racing are conveniently located throughout the sportsbook, along with interactive games, an outdoor firepit and a Barstool Sportsbook merchandise station.
As for the rest of the approximately 80,000 square-foot facility it will have 750 slot machines and 30 table games, a climate-controlled outdoor gaming terrace and three unique dining options. We’ve already talked about the dining at the Barstool Sportsbook. There will also be an outpost of Philadelphia based Tony Luke’s which serves up all of the iconic food associated with the city. We’re talking Tony’s signature cheesesteaks, roast pork Italian sandwiches, cheesecake, etc. There will also be an Asian restaurant called the Red Lotus Asian Kitchen, serving noodle and southeast Asian specialties. There are Red Lotus locations in most Penn National Gaming properties–I’ve eaten at the one in the Tropicana Las Vegas and found it to be decent enough with a small menu of items like pot stickers, pho, eggrolls, pad thai, etc. I met someone for lunch there–Las Vegas has one of the most amazing Asian food scenes in the world so there wasn’t any reason for me to return to the Red Lotus Asian Kitchen with so many other options even though there was nothing at all wrong with it.
The Hollywood Casino Morgantown is what the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board considers a ‘Category 4 Casino’. This category includes what are referred to as ‘satellite casinos’ or ‘mini-casinos’. The category system is a product of overbearing regulatory micromanagement at its worst. The ‘Category 4’ property is a relatively new addition to the state’s gaming regulatory framework. It was authorized by state legislators in 2017 with all of the anti-competitive and anti-innovation mechanisms that threaten to ‘kill the golden goose’ of the US gaming industry. As with the other categories, it’s all insanely arbitrary and not rooted in reality or based on any type of logic. As I understand it, state regulations provide for the issuance of up to 10 Category 4 licenses. Why 10 you might ask? The answer is simple–because that’s the number they pulled out of their ass.
Category 4 casinos can operate anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games. Properties can add 10 more table games after the first year of year of operation. So why not just let all Category 4 properties operate up to 40 table games right out of the gate? What happens in the course of a year that enables a casino to manage the additional 10 gaming tables? How about letting the gaming companies that operate casinos decide on how many machines and table games they want to operate depending on their individual business needs?
Of course, the state wants to do everything in their power to limit competitive market dynamics and to protect incumbents who are very powerful politically and serve as financial benefactors to elected officials. That’s why satellite casino sites cannot be within 25 miles of one of the state’s existing Category 1, 2, or 3 casino license holders. However, its these license holders that got the first chance to procure the licenses and build the casinos. If you think that Category 4 license holders are able to just pay some type of fee like every other business in the world you must be dreaming. They’re *auctioned* to the highest bidder–or at least the highest bidder that the state allows to bid. For example, Penn National paid $50 million USD for the *right* to have the license for the Hollywood Casino York. This doesn’t include license fees or anything like that. On top of everything, there’s the absurd 36% tax rate. You have to wonder just how successful the Pennsylvania gaming industry could be if it was regulated like any other business that can bring jobs, investment, tourism and revenue to the state. Instead, the potential is limited because state government runs gaming regulation like an extortion racket.
All you need to do to understand the damage done by this type of overbearing regulation–and this insane tax rate–is compare Pennsylvania’s revenue numbers to other states. Sports betting, for example–in September 2021 Pennsylvania did $578,760,746 in handle and $48,113,670 in hold putting their approximate hold percentage just over 8%. In the same month, New Jersey did $1.011 billion in handle and $82.4 million with a functionally identical hold percentage. New Jersey makes $10.2 million in tax revenue while Pennsylvania makes $9.6 million. Pennsylvania is the fifth most populous state in the US with 13,002,700 while New Jersey is ranked eleventh with 9,288,994 residents. Even with significantly fewer residents, New Jersey’s gaming industry makes more money for everyone simply because the state has created an environment that encourages competition and gives gaming companies a fair shot at turning a profit. Pennsylvania has done just the opposite.