Viewpoints vary on mini-casinos

Elected officials discuss casinos in Juniata Valley

LEWISTOWN–With mini-casinos up and running throughout the state, Juniata Valley elected officials expressed varied viewpoints on casinos opening in their respective municipalities.

In Mifflin County, the townships of Derry, Brown and Armagh each passed resolutions to prevent a mini-casino from opening in their municipalities, as did Tuscarora, Turbett, Milford, Beale and Lack Townships in Juniata County.

“(Casinos are) more (of a) headache and more trouble than they’re worth,” said Tim Manbeck, Turbett Township supervisor.

“I don’t want to see our quiet community disturbed,” said Barbara Foster, Lack Township secretary/treasurer.

Lewistown Borough initially passed a resolution to allow one, then rescinded the allowance. Deborah Bargo, mayor of Lewistown, said the allowance was rescinded because a resolution preventing a mini-casino from opening can be revoked, but a resolution allowing one could not.

“Revenue was the driving force for the (initial) resolution,” Bargo said.

Ultimately, Lewistown Borough council decided allowing one to open would create more problems than perks. Kelly Shutes, Derry Township supervisor, said their biggest concern was the zoning and location of one in the area.

“There’s a long list of criteria (a mini-casino) would need to meet to get zoning approval,” Shutes said.

Teresa King, secretary/treasurer for Brown Township, said the board felt “a casino in Brown Township would not be a good fit. Since this township is family oriented, the board feels the residents would be opposed to this type of facility.”

Neither Newton Hamilton, Port Royal and Mifflintown Boroughs, nor Oliver and Fermanagh Townships have made a decision on the matter, as of yet.

“We are not a fan of mini-casinos in our area,” said Laura Johnson, Newton Hamilton secretary. “We are a very small borough, with most properties already being occupied. I don’t think the council members feel it is a threat to our borough at this time.”

Marian Casner said Fermanagh Township swings the other way.

“As secretary and supervisor, I can tell you we have looked into the mini casino coming to our township and have decided that it would have a positive impact on our community, (creating) more jobs and revenue,” Casner said. “The members of our community are in favor of anything that may lower our property taxes and my personal thoughts are very much in favor of the casinos.”

Juniata and Mifflin counties’ commissioners varied in their opinions. Alice Gray, Juniata County Commissioner, said she believes the county is too small.

“We don’t have a population that would support (mini-casinos,)” Gray said.

Kevin Kodish and Steve Dunkle are adamantly opposed to a mini-casino opening in any local municipality.

“Gambling can be as destructive on the same level as alcoholism,” Kodish said. “Gambling and alcohol have done severe damage to families. Do we want that in our area?”

Dunkle said the “The commonwealth has failed to meet budgeted income over multiple years, in part because of over-dependence on gaming and gambling. As a whole, I believe that mini-casinos will only exacerbate this situation with Pennsylvania. It is not prudent to have a casino or mini-casino in every county and on every street corner.”

Rob Postal expressed a different viewpoint.

“I don’t have a particular problem with a mini casino, if located in appropriate zone. You get some jobs, property taxes and some revenue from the proceeds. The issue would be enforcement and appearances. Would I like one in the county? No, but the local municipality would have the authority.”