And the winner of Pennsylvania's first mini-casino is ...

With a $50.1 million bid, the operator of Grantville’s Hollywood Casino won the rights Wednesday to open Pennsylvania’s first mini-casino — and has chosen Yoe, York County, as the location.

Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association LLC, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming, put in the winning bid at an auction in Harrisburg Wednesday morning. The winners were announced live by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Four of 11 eligible casinos made a bid for the satellite casino license at the auction, the first of 10 scheduled over the next five months. If every license gets sold, 10 mini-casinos will dot Pennsylvania when all is done, operated by the casino companies already in residence here.

Yoe, a 136 square-acre borough located seven miles from York, is outside of Hollywood Casino’s 25-mile safe zone in which no other casinos are allowed to place a satellite. The bid reflects the anxiety of Penn National Gaming to keep its market: On Tuesday the company sued the state in federal court in an attempt to bar construction of the new casinos, alleging its business was less protected from mini-casino competition than every other casino in the state.

Because Hollywood is the only casino in its region, Penn National argued, most of its customers come from outside the 25-mile zone given to each casino. It also said some other casinos benefited from a super buffer because their zones overlapped to create biggers zone.

Now, they’ll have a satellite about an hour’s drive from the Hollywood Casino.

Although not full-fledged casinos, “mini” isn’t quite mini: each satellite casino can have between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games in its first year of operation, and can add 10 table games the following year. The minimum bid for a slot machine license is $7.5 million, plus an extra $2.5 million for table games, meaning minimum bids were likely $10 million.

The auction was conducted through secret ballot; thus the other bids — and proposed locations — will remain a mystery.

The satellite casinos are one tenet of the gaming expansion passed by the legislature in October. The new law also authorized video gaming terminals in truck stops — 10 counties opted out — an online iLottery, and online gambling.

Across Pennsylvania, local governments were split between those wanting to keep casinos out of their communities and others hoping to reap the potential revenue source and tourist draw.

Forty percent of the state’s municipalities decided to prohibit a satellite casino within their borders. Sixty percent remain in the game, although municipalities within 25 miles of an existing casino are only eligible to host a satellite established by that casino, which led some such municipalities not to bother to opt out. 

The opt-outs are not concentrated in any one region but spread across the state: every county had at least a couple of municipalities that said no to the casinos. It left 1,545 cities, boroughs, townships open for potential mini business.