The Bally’s casino proposal to redevelop the former Macy’s department store at the Nittany Mall cleared a major hurdle Wednesday afternoon when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) voted unanimously to approve the $123 million project.
More than two years and four months after Ira Lubert, who owns a 3% stake in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, won the state’s September 2020 auction for a Category 4 satellite casino and picked College Township, the PGCB issued the undertaking its required slot machine license.
Lubert partnered with Rhode Island-based Bally’s soon after securing the development opportunity. The PGCB voted unanimously in favor of the gaming license submitted by SC Gaming OpCo, LLC, the entity controlled by Bally’s and Lubert.
Casino.org continues to field hundreds of comments against the Bally’s plan, but College Township failed to withdraw its candidacy for being a Category 4 host location before the PGCB’s August 2019 deadline. As such, the PGCB lacked the authority to deny Bally’s plan solely on the grounds of the recent public outcry.
Cordish Complaint Dismissed
The gaming board voted in favor of the Bally’s plan despite a rival casino operator expressing allegations that the PGCB wrongly accepted SC Gaming OpCo’s application in the first place.
The Cordish Companies, which was outbid by Lubert during the September 2020 auction, said the PGCB violated the state’s Gaming Act by accepting the SC Gaming application when state law required that only Lubert should have been allowed to participate.
The Gaming Act requires that high bidders submit their Category 4 license applications within six months of the auction. Cordish alleged that since Lubert partnered with Bally’s and welcomed the casino operator as a key investor to SC Gaming OpCo, Lubert did not properly submit his application as dictated by the Gaming Act.
Mr. Lubert did not submit an application for the slot machine license. Instead, he formed an investment group, parceled off ownership and control interests in that group, put forward an applicant (SC Gaming), and is seeking a license for interests that are substantively different from Mr. Lubert,” argued Cordish attorney Mark Aronchick.
The PGCB didn’t agree with Cordish and instead granted SC Gaming OpCo a Category 4 slot license. The permit allows the company to develop and open a casino in College Township with as many as 750 slot machines. The casino can seek an initial allotment of 30 table games for an additional fee of $2.5 million. Sports betting can be included for another $10 million.
Bally’s told the state today that its State College casino will also offer a stage for live music and events, plus a restaurant serving simple eats and alcoholic drinks. The project is expected to take 12 months to renovate the former department store into a mini-casino.
Community Concerns Heard
The PGCB said it took into account the thousands of letters in opposition to the Bally’s casino plan in determining whether to license the project.
The Board conducted an in-depth background investigation of the application along with the collection of public input from citizens, community groups, and public officials. This was accomplished through a public input hearing held in College Township on Au. 16, 2021, and the receipt of written comments through June 12, 2022,” the board explained.
Casino.org has been covering the global gaming industry since 2015. Our January 14 article on the State College casino controversy garnered more than 200 comments — our site’s all-time record — with all but two in opposition to the Bally’s plan.
With Bally’s issued a license for College Township, the odds of halting the gaming development lengthen greatly. Cordish’s final legal recourse is to petition the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the PGCB decision. Cordish didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether the company will take that step.
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