Posted on: May 26, 2022, 02:02h. 

Last updated on: May 25, 2022, 02:41h.

A Pennsylvania casino project at the Nittany Mall near Penn State University in State College is finally making progress after months of unexplained delay.

Pennsylvania casino Penn State Nittany Mall Bally's
The interior of the Nittany Mall near Penn State University is seen before Macy’s closed in March of 2020. The Bally’s Corporation wants to transform the mall into a gambling venue. (Image: Lion’s Digest)

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) this week set a June 12 deadline for public submissions regarding the Nittany Mall casino plan. The Bally’s Corporation is seeking state approval to spend $123 million to transform part of the dated and largely vacant shopping mall into a casino.

The Nittany Mall is less than four miles from the Penn State campus in University Park. Bally’s partnered with businessman Ira Lubert after he won the Category 4 satellite casino auction round and targeted State College for a gaming development.

Lubert was a minority investor in the Valley Forge Casino Resort at the time. He thus was permitted to bid as an individual during the PGCB’s Category 4 auction round, held in September of 2020.

Penn State University has refrained from issuing a public position on the casino. But the school has reached out to asking that we refrain from writing “Penn State casino” in headlines, as the casino “is not affiliated with the University.”

Public Has Little Recourse

The PGCB has fielded hundreds of letters regarding the proposed Pennsylvania casino near the Penn State campus. The vast majority of the letters have raised concerns and objections to allowing a gaming facility to open so close to the state’s largest higher education institution.

Penn State’s main campus is where approximately 47,000 undergraduates are pursuing higher education. Many critics say those students shouldn’t be tempted with a nearby casino offering slot machines, table games, and sports betting.

The opposition, however, will likely fall on deaf ears, as the PGCB isn’t tasked with deciding the merits of a casino in a certain town, but licensing and regulating its operations. State College did not opt out of the Category 4 consideration, as did more than 1,000 other municipalities across the commonwealth.

Reason for Delay Unknown

Along with the public opposition to the casino, Bally’s was hit with a lawsuit brought by Maryland-based Cordish Companies. The suit is based on allegations that the casino operator was ineligible to participate in the September 2020 auction round, and therefore should not be allowed to partner with Lubert on the project.

The PGCB has not said whether the litigation was responsible for the state seemingly dragging its feet in moving the Bally’s State College project forward. The legal challenge is ongoing.

Regardless, the state seems ready to finally proceed with licensing Bally’s for the Category 4 opportunity in State College. The PGCB says after the public comment period ends next month, the state will set a hearing in Harrisburg to review the casino blueprint.

Bally’s wants to renovate the former Macy’s anchor department store into a casino with as many as 750 slot machines, 30 table games, and a sportsbook. If approved, the company says the casino will create as many as 400 full-time jobs.

An economic and security impact report commissioned by College Township, home to the Nittany Mall, found that the Bally’s casino would have a “negligible” impact on traffic, water and sewer infrastructure, and EMS services. The survey concluded that State College Police, however, would face an average of six additional 9-1-1 calls a month because of the casino.