Penn National backs out of Western Pa. casino deal

Penn National Gaming Inc. said Monday it wants to withdraw as operator of a proposed $225 million casino in Lawrence County that is backed by a group of Philadelphia-area investors.

"We are disappointed to be withdrawing from this project," B.J. Fair, chief development officer for Penn National Gaming, said in statement.

"However, given the continued softness in the economy and the level of market saturation - not just in Western Pennsylvania, but across the Commonwealth - we are regrettably unable to justify this investment at the statutorily required spending levels," Fair said.

Penn National is not alone in its worries about the state of the casino industry in Pennsylvania.

Separately, Presque Isle Downs Inc. has asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for permission to reduce the number of slot machines and table games at its Erie casino, which has been hard it by the opening of a casino in nearby Cleveland.

Presque Isle will make its case at a Gaming Board hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Penn National said it filed a complaint in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas seaking declaratory judgment that it has the right to withdraw from the Lawrence County project.

The Philadelphia-area investors are insurance executive Manuel Stamatakis, builder Peter DePaul, lawyer Thomas Leonard, Flyers owner Ed Snider, and the Melissa Silver Trust, a charitable family trust controlled by the late Lewis Katz's daughter. Each own about 18 percentof Endeka Entertainment L.P., the company established to apply for the casino.

hbrubaker@phillynews.com

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