College Township to Probe Casino Impact on Community Near Penn State

The College Township Council near State College, Pa., where Penn State University’s main campus is located, will probe what sort of impact a commercial casino at the Nittany Mall would have on life in the region.

College Township Penn State casino Pennsylvania
An artist’s rendering of the Bally’s casino project targeting the Nittany Mall in State College, Pa. College Township councilmembers are investigating what legal options they have to block the development. (Image: Bally’s Corporation)

After receiving hundreds of letters in opposition to the $123 million Bally’s casino project — and a petition signed by more than 1,000 local community members voicing their disapproval of the project — councilmembers say they will investigate their legal options to halt the development.

Our staff and council appreciate the concerns being raised. We hear them,” Mike Bloom, assistant township manager, told ABC23 this week.

Township councilmembers plan to vote next week on approving a local impact study focused on what negative repercussions would be levied on the area if a casino is allowed to take the place of the former Sears department store at the mall. The Bally’s venue would be less than five miles from Beaver Stadium and the Penn State University campus.

Impact Study Prep Underway

The College Township Council will vote on authorizing the impact study on September 15. In the meantime, study preparations are underway.

Council has directed staff to begin evaluation and preparation of its own impact study. Thus far, staff has begun developing the potential scope of this study, particularly what aspects staff can compile that may fall outside of staff capacity,” Bloom explained.

Penn State alumni and former university trustee Ira Lubert secured the rights to the mini-casino through the state’s September 2020 Category 4 auction round.

Lubert qualified to bid on the gaming license after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) opened up the competitive bidding process. They ruled that investors holding a 1% or more stake in a current casino could bid. Lubert owns a 3% ownership position in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.

After securing the license with a $10 million tender, Lubert pinpointed College Township for the project after the local government there decided not to opt out of being considered for a Category 4 casino. However, township leaders are now expressing a bit of remorse for not removing the town as a potential casino host jurisdiction.

Legal Opinions Fielded

Along with a potential impact study, College Township is consulting with its legal advisors. They are attempting to determine the merits of asking the PGCB to deny Bally’s a gaming license for State College. Lubert partnered with Bally’s soon after securing the gaming opportunity.

The PCGB is next scheduled to consider the Bally’s State College casino plan during its October 19 meeting in Harrisburg.

A separate legal challenge is being brought by The Cordish Companies, which was outbid by Lubert during the September 2020 auction. The suit stands on grounds that Lubert wrongly orchestrated a scheme with Bally’s before being declared the high bidder remains.

Cordish, which operates Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino Pittsburgh, believes Lubert violated PGCB rules by partnering with Bally’s. The contend Bally’s wasn’t qualified to participate in the bidding prior to the auction round.

The Cordish litigation continues to play out in the Commonwealth Court.

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