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What Better Place For A Satellite Casino Than The Mall?

red shopping bags inside mall
College Township remains noticeably absent from the list 404 opt-outs for Category 4 casinos in Pennsylvania.

While four Centre County municipalities are already out of the running, the township council concluded they would stay the course for a mini-casino, reported StateCollege.com. The only other Centre region township that did not opt out is Halfmoon Township.

Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh wrote this in his memo to council members preceedingthat preceded a Dec. 7 meeting:

“[T]he Manager strongly believes that casino gaming could be a true and powerful opportunity to redevelop both the Nittany Mall property as well as surrounding commercially zoned properties.”

The state plans to allow 10 new Category 4 satellite casinos. Some other PA locales also took interest. This comes to fruition in light of the gambling expansion bill that passed in October.

These sites can house between 300 and 750 slot machines and as many as 30 table games. They cannot be within 25 miles of an existing Pennsylvania casino (of which there are 12). The municipalities must decide prior to Dec. 31. The auction process begins in January.

The council considered this location as a growth opportunity for the Nittany Mall, a decades-old mall near Pennsylvania State University.

Business exceptions to the rule in College Township

A city ordinance protects residential district boundaries, places of assembly, schools, and parks from gaming operations. Accordingly, gambling businesses cannot be within 1,000 feet of these establishments.

The only place for a gaming operation would be the C-1 commercial district. Due to this restriction, portions of the Nittany Mall stands as the only available spot for a mini-casino.

Councilmembers told StateCollege.com that the chances are slim for this property. Even so, the municipality would cash in on half the local assessment paid by the casino. That includes two percent of gross revenue from table games and four percent of gross revenue from slot machines. That number may be capped at 50 percent of the municipality’s 2016-2017 budget, but it could benefit the township.

The economic struggles of the mall alone could make it a good candidate for the mini-casino location, reported PA Online Casino.

While financially in good shape, the township could collect on the license fees and taxes. Valley Forge Casino Resort, the closest Category 4 casino, generated over $1.7 million in 2016 for the Upper Marion Township.

Worries about Penn State

Council President Tom Daubert and Council Member Theresa Lafer said that a casino could prove to be a problem for students in the area. Lafer said to StateCollege.com:

“I am very uncomfortable overall with the idea of instead of paying fees or taxes that we just take money from gambling and try to live on it. I find that irrational, possibly immoral, and it always means that it is the most regressive money source we can put out there. I don’t think that’s fair to the people who can least afford it.”

In November, 246 townships opted out of the opportunity for a mini-casino; December recorded 158 opt-outs so far.

Katie Callahan

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Katie Callahan is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who covers everything from poker, business, education and politics to construction, startups and cybersecurity.