Meadows gets initial approval on sportsbook

Rick Shrum

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino has gotten the go-ahead on its sportsbook venture.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved The Meadows’ application Wednesday morning in Harrisburg. Although the gaming site is a few hurdles shy of getting an official OK, it is expected to successfully navigate them – and soon.

“We’ll have a grand opening and ribbon-cutting next Thursday at 11 a.m.,” said Kevin Brogan, vice president of marketing for the North Strabane Township entertainment venue.

Having a sportsbook will enable patrons of The Meadows to bet on a plethora of sports, beyond the traditional “big four” professional leagues. “We’ll be as aggressive as we can with our offerings,” Brogan said. “We’ll offer sports like tennis and golf along with football, baseball, basketball and hockey.”

The Meadows began the sportsbook process July 3 when it filed for a license. Step two occurred at a hearing Wednesday, when officials of the venue presented their plans to the gaming board. By getting a yay vote, The Meadows – which also features harness racing – will have to pony up a $10 million fee for the license.

“That’s committed to be paid,” Brogan said Wednesday afternoon.

Two test dates will follow, during which members of the control board will come to The Meadows and check equipment, including security cameras, and whether employees are properly trained and licensed. That, Brogan said, will occur Tuesday and Wednesday.

Testing, which will run from 4 to 11 p.m. both days, will be open to the public, said Doug Harbach, communications director for the gaming board.

Meadows officials obviously are confident of final approval, for the opening/ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Thursday. Five iconic Pittsburgh athletic figures have committed to attend: former Steelers Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier; ex-Penguins Pierre Larouche and Bryan Trottier; and onetime Pirates pitcher John Candelaria.

If all goes well, Harbach said, The Meadows will be the 12th retail wagering site in Pennsylvania. The state also has five online wagering sites, and Harbach added that The Meadows plans to offer that in partnership with DraftKings.

Adding sportsbook is but one of many changes planned at the Racetrack Road complex. Officials are in the midst of a $14 million renovation project that includes four new restaurants; more than 100 slot machines; a new cashier and a new loyalty center in 2019; and a bar and entertainment venue targeted to open in early 2020.

The sportsbook area will be in the middle of the casino, in a space previously occupied by Vibe.

“Every facility, over time, has to evolve,” Meadows vice president and general manager Tony Frabbiele said in August. “Customers change, environments change. Your business has to keep evolving to keep customers coming.”

Meadows Casino moved to its current location in 2009 after operating in a temporary space for two years. The gaming site and racetrack, combined, occupy about 100,000 square feet, and are owned by Penn National Gaming.

Frabbiele was pleased following Wednesday’s approval. He said in a news release: “It’s a fantastic day for the Meadows Casino, our team members, guests and Washington County. We are excited to bring this new amenity to The Meadows and are looking forward to the thrill and excitement of sports wagering.”