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ALLENTOWN, PA-Wyomissing-based Penn National Gaming is exploring the options for tossing its hat into the ring of contenders for one of the state’s stand-alone slot-parlor licenses. Applications are due to the state gaming board on Dec. 28, and Penn National has several hurdles to leap before it can meet the deadline. “It’s still speculative, but there is potential opportunity at what we think is a great site,” Eric Schippers, a Penn National principal, tells GlobeSt.com.

The site is a 15-acre parcel adjacent to the Queen City Municipal Airport here. While Schippers acknowledges his company has made a proposal to the owner, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, he declines to confirm details. However, George Dougherty, executive director of the authority, tells GlobeSt.com that Penn National and a partner have offered to pay $10 million over 20 years for the land and also “provide a new airport at no cost to the airport authority.” He adds that prospects for acceptance of the offer are “not very good. Discussions were very preliminary. This would be a difficult project.”

A statute that prohibits Penn National from owning more than a 33% interest in what would be a second gaming facility in the state also limits the company’s options. It is building a $240-million casino at its racetrack in Grantville in anticipation of obtaining one of the seven licenses designated for a racetrack.

While it can own just a third of a second gaming facility, Schippers says, “we can be a lender or obtain a management agreement for another facility in Pennsylvania. We think the location could be an ideal site, so we’re evaluating potential partners (for ownership) or lender or management opportunities.” Among the potential partners is Philadelphia-based UCH Venture Capital Inc., “and we’re also talking to some others,” Schippers says.

The application would compete with others seeking a license for a standalone casino in the Lehigh Valley. Phoenix-based Aztar Corp. unveiled plans for a $325-million Tropicana-brand casino here, and, according to published reports, a JV between Newmark & Co. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. is seeking a license for its redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel plant site in Bethlehem. Of the five licenses to be granted for standalone casinos, just two will go to undesignated areas outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In addition to those planning sites in the Lehigh Valley, Boyd Gaming Corp. is applying for one in Limerick, also an undesignated area.

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