No Lion: Bally’s Announces Partnership to Build Mini-Casino Near Penn State University

Written By Martin Harris on January 4, 2021

As casinos reopen in Pennsylvania once again to start the new year, the report of a new mini-casino coming to the Keystone State arrives. The casino will be brand new, but the name is a familiar one in the industry.

On Monday, Bally’s Corporation announced an agreement with Philadelphia-based real estate and private equity manager Ira Lubert “to jointly design, develop, construct and manage a Category 4 licensed casino” in Pennsylvania.

The announcement follows Lubert having bid successfully to obtain a mini-casino license in September 2020.

Lubert is a graduate of Penn State University and a member of the university’s board of trustees since 2015. The new casino will be located close to Lubert’s alma mater near Unionville, just a few miles from the PSU campus.

Construction to start first half of 2021, take one year

Lubert already has experience with casino ownership in PA. He is a minority shareholder in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. Lubert also played a leading a role in the opening of the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia in 2012 before selling in 2018.

At the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board‘s auction in September, Lubert submitted a winning bid of $10,000,101. Doing so earned Lubert the right to apply for a Category 4 Slot Machine license.

The license became available after Mount Airy Casino was denied a license in November 2019.

According to Bally’s, casino construction will begin during the first half of 2021 and take approximately one year to complete. The casino will feature up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games.

Bally’s additionally plans to open a retail sportsbook as well as an online casino and online sportsbook. Such plans are pending further approvals and licenses.

Bally’s estimates construction of the mini-casino will cost $120 million. Bally’s will possess majority equity interest in the partnership following approvals of the transaction by regulators.

Lubert’s local ties encourage Bally’s PA entry

George Papanier, President and CEO of Bally’s Corporation, described Bally’s entering Pennsylvania market as a “major milestone” for the company.

Bally’s Corporation currently owns 12 properties across the country. Most recently, Bally’s acquired Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport in Louisiana from Caesars Entertainment Inc. in December 2020.

In the Northeast, Bally’s owns Bally’s Atlantic City in New Jersey, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware, and two other properties in Rhode Island.

“We look forward to combining our own proven track record of greenfield development with Ira Lubert’s local knowledge and expertise to bring Bally’s first-in-class gaming experience and amenities to customers and sports fans across Pennsylvania,” said Papanier.

Papanier additionally cited Lubert’s development experience in the state and area. Such a background will help Bally’s “not only to build and develop the facility, but to contribute to the surrounding community,” said Papanier.

Lubert echoed that sentiment.

“Together, I believe we will make this transformative project successful for all stakeholders and look forward to the positive impact the redevelopment will have on the community,” said Lubert.

The mini-casinos finally begin to open

Lubert’s winning bid secured him the right to obtain the last of the mini-casino licenses offered by the PGCB. The auctions followed the state’s passage of gambling expansion in 2017. In the end, bidders only claimed five of the proposed 10 mini-casino licenses.

The first mini-casino to open in the state was Live! Casino Pittsburgh in late November 2020.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Wayne Parry

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. In 2019, his book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books.

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