The State College community strongly opposes the Bally casino near PSU

Published on: January 23, 2023, 02:07 am.

Last updated: 23 January 2023, 04:15.

If there are State College residents who support allowing Bally’s Corporation of Rhode Island to redevelop the former Macy’s department store in Nittany Mall into a casino, Casino.org I have not heard of them.

However, we have submitted hundreds of comments from concerned Center County citizens who believe gambling should stay away from Penn State University Park.

State College Bally's Penn State University Casino
Penn State University Park seen from above, looking northeast. The State College community has come out in opposition to a Bally casino planned for the Nittany Mall, located just a few miles from the university’s main campus. (Image: Penn State University)

Bally’s partnered with Penn State alumnus and former university administrator Ira Lubert. The alliance was made shortly after winning the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s (PGCB) September 2020 bid for a Category 4 satellite casino. Lubert outbid Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which operates two casinos in Pennsylvania — Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino Pittsburgh, the latter being a Category 4 property.

Lubert and Cordish qualified to participate in the September 2020 auction because they held ownership stakes in a slot machine license in the Commonwealth. Lubert owns a 3% stake in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.

Bally’s did not qualify because the company has no vested interest in a Pennsylvania slots license. Cordish alleges Lubert orchestrated a scheme with Bally’s prior to the auction that violated state auction rules. As such, Cordish believes the state should deny Lubert and Bally’s application for a Category 4 license.

The PGCB will hear from Cordish during the meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, January 25. The hearing will also include comments from representatives of Bally and the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Counsel.

Opposition to the State College

Pennsylvania greatly expanded gambling in 2017. The law authorized iGaming, retail and online sports betting, truck stop video game terminals, fantasy sports and Category 4 casinos.

The law gave towns and municipalities the right not to be considered for Category 4 development – ​​commonly referred to as “mini-casinos” and “satellite casinos”. More than 1,000 local governments have done just that. But somewhat surprisingly, because of its proximity to Penn State, where more than 46,000 students live and study, College Township remained in the bidding pool.

It’s a decision the College Township Board has since expressed regret. This after the local community expressed considerable opposition to allowing a casino to come to Centru County.

During the PGCB’s public comment period, the state received more than 5,000 letters expressing disagreement with Bally’s plan based on a multitude of concerns. Since the public comment period ended, the Penn State community has reached out to media outlets covering the controversial topic, with Casino.org being such a source, to keep their voice heard.

Casino.org has received hundreds of emails and comments expressing antagonism to Bally’s State College project. Our January 14 coverage garnered 151 opposing comments alone. The news garnered only one comment in support. To read the comments, click here.

Public opinion taken into account

The PGCB promised local opposition that the state would weigh community feedback in making its final decision on whether to grant Bally an operating license for College Township.

But since College Township didn’t opt ​​out of the Category 4 bid before the state’s August 2019 deadline, it’s unclear whether the PGCB would be willing to deny Bally a gambling license simply on the grounds of opposition public.

A more likely path to stopping Bally’s project comes from Cordish. Whatever direction the game board takes, it’s likely a legal appeal. Title 4, which consists of the state’s gaming laws, directs the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to handle challenges to PGCB licenses.

If PGCB signs off on Bally’s State College casino, Cordish is likely to appeal. But if the PGCB decides to terminate Bally’s plan because of the Cordish allegation or simply because the public is apparently opposed to the development, Bally would be expected to appeal that decision.

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