Officials: Casino opening in Hempfield to have Pittsburgh name — and that’s OK
Westmoreland County’s mini casino, slated to open next year, will be known as “Live! Casino Pittsburgh.”
Located in Westmoreland Mall, about 38 miles or about an hour’s drive from downtown Pittsburgh, the casino that is being built in a former department store in Hempfield won’t have any local identification in its name, a fact that county officials said was curious but not a major concern.
“I’d rather it be ‘Live! Casino Westmoreland.’ Hopefully, that is not etched in stone and we have a chance to convince them of the merits of being more closely aligned with the community they are in,” said Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas.
Hempfield Township Supervisor John Silvis agreed, adding, “We need our own identity. … That’s something we’ll have to address.”
The state’s Gaming Control Board on Wednesday gave final approval to the operating license for The Cordish Companies, a Maryland-based gaming and retail development firm, to operate the small-scale casino at the mall. The company said it intends to open the casino, featuring 750 slot machines and 30 table games, sometime in 2020.
The project will occupy about 100,000 square feet in the former Bon-Ton department store, where construction for the casino started in April.
Company officials said the casino is expected to have a $188 million economic impact on the region each year. An additional $148 million will come from construction, including approximately 960 direct and indirect construction jobs, plus approximately 500 permanent new jobs for local and regional residents as well as spin-off impacts for other businesses, vendors and local charities.
Hempfield Supervisor Doug Weimer said the casino will be a “linchpin in the redevelopment of Westmoreland Mall, the commercial area. I’m excited to hear (the approval). I look forward to seeing them move forward to redevelop the Bon-Ton and attract other commercial business.”
Supervisor Rob Ritson added that the growth of the commercial corridor in the township could help spur residential developments, something township officials have identified as a long-term goal.
“What I’m hoping is that it becomes a regional magnet to get more upscale retail and upscale restaurants,” Ritson said.
Cordish operates a number of other gaming and retail development properties throughout the United States under its Live! banner, including facilities in Maryland, Texas, Atlanta and a $700 million project under construction in Philadelphia.
“Like all other Live! venues across the country, the Live! Casino at the Westmoreland Mall will be a best-in-class regional destination,” Cordish managing partner Joe Weinberg said via email Thursday. “Consistent with our national branding strategy, the location identifier is based on the larger regional market designation.”
The Pittsburgh designator is not unexpected, according to Westmoreland County planning director Jason Rigone, who said the casino’s regional branding could be beneficial.
“It might bring in outside money and customers from out of the region and out of the state into Westmoreland County,” Rigone said.
Jack Horner, a spokesman for Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, the lone gaming facility in the city and Allegheny County, declined to comment on the naming of the Westmoreland facility.
“At Rivers Casino, we’re focused on all the great things happening on the North Shore, including our expanded state-of-the-art sportsbook opening next month, our new Martorano’s Prime restaurant coming later this year and The Landing Hotel opening in 2021,” Horner said.
Local officials said the name of the casino is less important than where it is located.
“It’s a county development that is moving forward,” said Westmoreland County Commissioner Charles Anderson. “They are going to call it what they are going to call it. Of course, we want something about Westmoreland County to be front and center, but ultimately, it’s their call.”
Several Hempfield supervisors agreed, adding that Pittsburgh is a regional destination.
“I get it,” said supervisor George Reese. “Their market goes beyond our borders here in Westmoreland. At the end of the day, it still sits here in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County — and that works for me.”
County commissioners said they have yet to speak with the casino developers since they won the right last year to purchase the mini casino license for $40 million. Officials said they still hope to talk about the project with Cordish representatives, but a potential name change is not a top priority.
“We are just happy to have them here,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.