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Harrisburg RV Park/Casino Plan Gets Hearing

August 31, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

RV owners would have a place to pull off the road, park in the shade and head for slot machines and craps tables if an applicant for a resort casino license for a Holiday Inn near Harrisburg, Pa., wins a nod from Pennsylvania regulators, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported.

Penn Harris Gaming, which includes Atlantic City attorneys among its investors, wants to transform a Holiday Inn on a busy commercial strip 10 miles west of Harrisburg into a $75 million resort casino featuring an “RV World.”

The existing 239-room hotel falls short of a state requirement that a resort casino have at least 275 rooms. Penn Harris investors would fix that by renting out 36 recreational vehicles on the premises for overnight stays.

Penn Harris made its case Monday (Aug. 30) at the start of local hearings examining the four applications for Pennsylvania’s remaining resort casino license. The hearings before the state Gaming Control Board move to the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center near Gettysburg today and Wednesday, Fernwood Hotel & Resort at Bushkill on Thursday and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania on Sept. 8.

“Pennsylvania is very big on RVs,” said attorney John Donnelly at the Penn Harris hearing in suburban Hampden Township. “We hope to tap a completely different market than other casinos.”

He described south-central Pennsylvania as a magnet for RV owners with easy highway access, numerous car shows in nearby Carlisle and Hershey and tourism attractions in Amish country and Gettysburg.

The 22-acre hotel premises would feature a large area where RVs would park and outdoor sports facilities for family entertainment.

Attorney Michael Sklar said the project would create 300 full-time jobs and bring $1.6 million in annual revenue to Hampden Township, while avoiding the impact of a full-fledged casino with several thousand slot machines. Resort casinos can have up to 600 slot machines and 50 gaming tables.

Gaming board members heard plenty of counter-arguments to the proposal.

Local resident Robert Greenleaf questioned whether a lucrative RV market exists and said $1.6 million to the township is paltry compared to gambling revenues going to the state.

Penn Harris Gaming faces a challenge on another front, too.

Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino east of Harrisburg, objects to the application on the grounds it doesn’t meet the hotel room requirement and is too close to Hollywood casino. Penn National emerged as a partner in Fernwood’s renewed license application.

A future hearing will be held to determine if Penn Harris Gaming can meet the room requirement with rented RVs, said gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach.

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