Developer Plans Slots Parlor at Pocono Manor, Penn.

POCONO MANOR, Pa. -- A developer said he has a contract with the Pocono Manor resort to build a $1.5 billion casino complex around the historic hotel near interstates 80 and 380.

Greg Matzel, president of Matzel Development, of Oakhurst, N.J., said a big part of his plans involves getting a license for 5,000 slot machines. That would require beating out Pocono Raceway and Mount Airy Lodge, as well as several projects planned for the Lehigh Valley, for a non-racetrack casino license.

"This is obviously a large project and complex, so it's not totally dependent, but the key thing is pursuing a casino license," Matzel said. "We feel that the casino is an integral part to the overall synergy to the project, and the key thing is going to be a casino license."

Built in 1902, Pocono Manor is currently a 250-room hotel with two golf courses around it. Matzel said his plans also include an indoor water park, a shopping center, time-share lodgings and a railroad station for service to New York City.

Matzel's slots proposal joins several others in the Lehigh Valley.

Two major casino operators -- Las Vegas Sands and Isle of Capri Casinos -- also are seeking to build slots parlors in Bethlehem and Allentown.

"This looks to be a good project," state Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, said of Matzel's plans. "It's probably the best location of all the projects proposed here. It's right off the highway, and you're not getting into any residential area to get to a casino."

Matzel said a well-known casino company will manage the facility if he gets the license. He said he has made arrangements with a specific company, which he declined to identify.

Robert Uguccioni, who runs the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau, cautioned that Matzel's project is one of several planning to compete for a slots license.

"There are so many transactions happening or pending that it is hard to keep track. But this is a very good proposal, not just for the Poconos but this region of Pennsylvania," Uguccioni said.

Matzel plans to build his project in Pocono and Tobyhanna townships.

"This is a very aggressive plan, and it seems he has his ducks in a row," said L. Patrick Ross, a Pocono Township supervisor who met with Matzel recently. "I think he's a very knowledgeable person and would probably do a good job."