Mohegan Pennsylvania won approval Wednesday to become the latest casino in the state to reduce its number of slot machines to shed excess capacity and enhance the comfort of patrons.
The Pennsylvania Casino Gaming Control Board granted Mohegan Pennsylvania’s request to remove 120 machines, dropping its slot count to 1,550 in a three-phased remodeling of its gaming floor planned from Nov. 15 to May 1.
State law requires most casinos to have a minimum of 1,500 slots. A majority of the state’s longtime casinos have opted in the post-COVID era to reduce their number of machines. Gaming board approval is generally required to do so, as the state’s reliance on casino taxes gives it an interest in seeing revenue maximized.
Mohegan Pennsylvania earned $184 million in slots revenue in the recently completed 2022-23 fiscal year, down from $191.2 million in 2021-22. Casino officials told the board at its monthly meeting that competition from gray-market skill games has been an unquantifiable factor in reducing slots play within the casino, and they believe more open spacing on the gaming floor will benefit both customers and revenue.
“The biggest part [of the reduction] is creating a more comfortable gaming experience for guests,” said Steve Johnston, assistant general manager of the racetrack casino in Wilkes-Barre. “Smaller banks [of machines] are more profitable, both to us and the commonwealth. Those center games are just not enjoyable for customers to play.”
By coincidence, the board is holding a public hearing Thursday morning in Wilkes-Barre on the mid-sized casino’s license renewal, which is required every five years.
VGT facility fined for lax oversight
The truck stop video gaming terminal establishments created by Pennsylvania’s 2017 gaming expansion don’t generate nearly the attention of other aspects — such as legal online casinos, sports betting, and mini-casinos — but one of those nearly 70 VGT facilities located in mostly rural areas came under scrutiny Wednesday.
The gaming board fined Pilot Travel Centers $45,000 under a consent agreement in which it acknowledged a lack of supervision took place at one of its facilities in Westmoreland County.
No one under 21 is supposed to be allowed inside the gaming rooms within the licensed truck stops, which can host five machines. The facilities are required to have a board-credentialed employee on duty to enforce that policy any time the VGTs are in use.
An inspection by board staff in March found that the VGTs at Pilot Travel Center #620 were frequently in use without the presence of any credentialed staff who had received proper training about issues such as the prohibition on underage gambling. On one occasion, according to the consent agreement, two men in the VGT area had a small child 4 or 5 years old with them who was given the chance to play a machine.
Representatives from Pilot Travel Centers told the board that an entirely new staff has been hired at the facility since the March incidents and new systems are in place to prevent a reoccurrence.
Photo: John Greim/Getty Images