State College Casino Delayed, as Penn State Community Speaks Out Against Project

The State College casino hearing that was scheduled for tomorrow, October 19, has been delayed by at least a month.

The since-closed Macy’s department at the Nittany Mall. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will not consider a plan from Bally’s to place a casino inside the State College shopping complex until at least November 2022. (Image: Google Maps)

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) today said more time is needed to consider whether the state will sign off on Bally’s plan to transform the former Macy’s department store at the Nittany Mall into a Category 4 “mini-casino” with as many as 750 slot machines, 30 table games, and a sportsbook.

The delay comes after many residents in the State College community, which is home to Penn State University’s main campus, voiced strong opposition to the gaming development. The community outcry has led to the College Township Council having a change of heart from previously supporting the casino investment.

College Township councilors are reviewing their legal options to block the $123 million development. But the local government earlier this month decided against spending taxpayer money to conduct a thorough review as to what sort of negative consequences and societal harms a casino might bring Happy Valley.

Township Solicitor Louis Glantz recommended the council against the study.

“Attempting to persuade a state agency to circumvent the developer’s approval would be an intentional attempt to interfere with the land development approval,” Glantz advised. “The ramifications of such interference by the municipality could, and likely would, result in a civil suit against the township.”

Delay Likely Unrelated to Local Opposition

Those in the State College community speaking out regarding the Bally’s initiative have overwhelmingly opposed the plan. Of the nearly 5,000 submitted letters and emails to the PGCB, all but about 100 have been against the casino.

But with College Township deciding not to opt-out of Category 4 consideration before the January 1, 2018, deadline, and with the Nittany Mall meeting zoning requirements, there’s seemingly little legal recourse for the local government.

A likelier culprit for the state delaying the licensing hearing for the Bally’s State College casino could be an ongoing lawsuit against Bally’s by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies. Cordish, which operates Live! casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, was outbid by Bally’s during the state’s fifth Category 4 auction round in September 2020.

Bally’s wasn’t actually the high bidder but instead Penn State alum and former trustee Ira Lubert. Lubert qualified to bid because he holds a 3% ownership position in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.

Lubert soon after securing College Township for a mini-casino after winning the auction round with a $10 million bid partnered with Bally’s for the undertaking. But Cordish alleges that Lubert and Bally’s partnered prior to the auction round and therefore submitted a bid as an unqualified entity.

Only companies holding gaming licenses, as well as key stakeholders in current casinos, were eligible to participate in the September 2020 auction round.

State Opaque Message

As to why the State College casino topic was removed from tomorrow’s meeting, PGCB spokesperson Doug Harbach said the board requires additional time before voting on the Bally’s plan.

There have been numerous documents filed in this matter which need to be reviewed by all parties, including the Gaming Control Board,” Harbach told StateCollege.com. “As a result, the board is not comfortable moving forward with a hearing this month.”

The Nittany Mall where Bally’s hopes to open a casino is less than two miles from the Penn State campus.

The post State College Casino Delayed, as Penn State Community Speaks Out Against Project appeared first on Casino.org.

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