PA Mini-Casino Heading to College Township: $10 Million Bid from Ira Lubert Approved

Written By Kevin Shelly on September 2, 2020 - Last Updated on April 23, 2021
State College PA site of final mini-casino license

Ira Lubert, a minority shareholder in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, was declared the winning auction bidder for a mini-casino license Wednesday morning by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

The proposed location is near Penn State University. Lubert graduated from PSU. He is on the university’s board of trustees and has been honored for his service to the school.

Lubert works in the equity and real estate business

Lubert is principally a real estate and private equity manager based in Philadelphia. His bid was $10,000,101.

He was a part of the opening of Valley Forge Casino in 2012.

Cordish likely unsuccessful competitor to Lubert

A second bid, presumably from the Cordish Companies, which had previously said it intended to bid, was also submitted.

But PGCB did not reveal the amount of the second bid. Cordish is developing a full-sized casino in Philadelphia and a mini-casino near Pittsburgh under the Live! Casino name. A spokesperson for Live! did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mini-casino to go up near Unionville in Centre County

Lubert’s submission named the tiny Centre County town of Unionville as the center of where he proposes to build within a 30-mile diameter circle. The exact location is to be named later.

A tiny town with fewer than 300 residents, Unionville is probably not the actual location. However, it is about 10 miles away from Penn State University.

During the weekends of Penn State football home games, the population of State College, which is about 43,447, grows to over 100,000. It transforms from a college town to the third-largest populated municipality (behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) in the state.

In addition, the possible location of Lubert’s mini-casino would put it within a one-hour drive for many living in Central PA.

While the Borough of State College opted out of hosting a mini-casino when it had the chance in early 2018, neighboring College Township in Centre County did not.

Likely location a College Township mall

Two years ago, Lubert was part of Nittany Gaming LLC. The company had an option to lease a former department store in the struggling Nittany Mall in College Township.

Just this year, seven businesses in the mall closed, while others relocated. A closed Macy’s store seems the likely location for the mini-casino.

The mall is at the intersections of Route 150 and Route 26, one mile off the I-99 corridor, the major highway in the area.

What will Lubert’s PA mini-casino offer?

Lubert must pay the bid price to PA within two business days. Then he has up to six months to apply for the Category 4 Slot Machine License. A message for Lubert left with his assistant was not immediately returned.

As a mini-casino, the planned facility can contain up to 750 slot machines.

Lubert could also petition to initially operate up to 30 table games for an additional fee of $2.5 million. An additional 10 table games can operate after a year.

This should end mini-casino auctions

This should bring the auction of PA mini-casino licenses to a close.

The mini license Lubert bid on became available when Mount Airy Casino was denied a license by the PGCB last November.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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