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Municipalities opt out of new casino act

Danielle Ryan

(12/20) In early December, municipalities in Southern Adams County, including Hamiltonban Township, Liberty Township and Carroll Valley Borough accepted resolutions to prohibit Category 4 Licensed facilities. Franklin Township, Freedom Township and Mount Joy Township, among many others, have also adopted the resolution.

On October 30, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Act 42 of 2017, thereby creating a new Category 4 Licensed facility referred to as "mini-casinos." "Mini casinos" are defined as having between 300 and 750 slot machines and table games. The Legislature authorized up to ten of these facilities, which can be owned and operated by any business that holds a Category 1, 2, or 3 casino license. These casinos are to operate no fewer than 25 miles from established casinos.

As part of the Act, municipalities had the option to prohibit the location of a Category 4 Casino within their boundaries. However, municipalities only had until December 31, 2017 to take action. Any municipality that wished to opt out of the casinos had to pass a resolution declaring their intent to prohibit Category 4 "mini-casinos." Any resolution delivered after December 31 would not be considered.

Opting out of the "mini casinos" right now gives the township the option to say no in the future. If a township chooses to opt out, they may, in the future, choose to opt back in by rescinding the original prohibition. However, once the resolution has been rescinded, a municipality loses its authority to prohibit future Category 4 Casinos. If a municipality chooses not to prohibit the casinos now, they will have no leverage in the future if a casino is brought to the Township.

Hamiltonban Township held a public hearing on December 5 to discuss the resolution. Prior to the public hearing, the township heard from fourteen residents, twelve of which were strongly opposed to having casinos in the township, and who asked Supervisors to accept a resolution opting out of the casinos. As one resident stated during the public hearing, "If we donít take any action now, thereís no opportunity to take any action in the future."

Supervisor Chairman, Bob Gordon, stated that he doesnít believe there would be any location within the township that could even be suitable for a casino. "However, in all fairness to the residents of Hamiltonban Township, we wanted to give the opportunity to residents to voice their opinions," stated Gordon.

During the Carroll Valley Borough Council meeting, Carroll Valley Borough Manager Dave Hazlett made mention of the potential economic development that could occur as a result of placing a casino in the Borough. "You donít want to hamper yourself from an economic development standpoint Ö hosting fees for placing a casino in the Borough are 50% of the current municipal budget," stated Hazlett. However, adopting the resolution now simply gives municipalities a choice in the future. Members of the public from neighboring municipalities who attended the Carroll Valley meeting urged Council to adopt the Resolution prohibiting the casinos. In Freedom Township, over 80% of the citizens voted in opposition of casinos being placed in the township.

Hamiltonban Township Supervisors took a vote and chose to accept a resolution that would prohibit the use of a Category 4 Casino within the township. Liberty Township, Carroll Valley Borough and a majority of Adams County Municipalities also voted to accept similar resolutions prohibiting casinos, thus granting themselves the ability to have a say in the matter in the future.

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