The delay on the proposed State College mini-casino near Penn State is primarily due to a lawsuit by Stadium Casino RE, LLC (owned by Cordish Companies) against Ira Lubert and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
This lawsuit alleges that Lubert’s bid for a casino license should be disqualified. The claim is some of Lubert’s partners were not eligible to participate in the casino license bidding process. The Commonwealth Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit on March 7. The Court has yet to rule on this case.
The PGCB tentatively plans to hear arguments regarding the proposed mini-casino license at their October 19, 2022 meeting. State regulators will likely need time to deliberate on those arguments before voting on the proposed casino’s license. Most likely they will vote on the license no earlier than their following meeting on November 16, 2022.
If the PGCB approves the casino’s license, they will offend the majority of the State College community. If they deny the casino’s license, they will offend Ira Lubert and his business associates.
Organizers against the State College speak out
Andrew Shaffer, a State College resident, is an organizer fighting to stop the casino from getting approval.
“If the PGCB makes a decision and the court subsequently finds Ira Lubert’s bid to be ineligible, then the PGCB would have upset somebody unnecessarily,” Shaffer told PlayPennsylvania. “Conversely, if the PGCB delays making a decision about the license until after the court case has been decided and the court finds Ira Lubert’s bid to be ineligible, then the PGCB would not have to upset anyone because they would no longer have to make any decision about the license at all.”
Traffic study for State College casino ordered
The PGCB ordered a comprehensive traffic study to be conducted on the three PA mini-casinos that are already open to better evaluate the accuracy of the traffic study for the proposed casino at the Nittany Mall. The time required to complete this study has extended the timeline for the review of the proposed casino’s license.
During a WPSU interview on December 17, 2021, PGCB representative Doug Harbach said the board was reviewing feedback that is sent in regarding the proposed casino to determine what is in the best interest of both the local community and also of the Commonwealth.
Penn State comments on proposed casino
Penn State University issued this statement for PlayPennsylvania:
“Decisions on casino locations reside with local municipalities and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which oversees this legal activity for the Commonwealth. As with other business endeavors, there are established mechanisms, practices and public input processes in place to weigh the benefits and the challenges of any such requests, and we believe these demonstrated processes are the appropriate course to take.”
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller attorney Jason Levine who is representing Stadium Casino RE, LLC did not return a request for comment.
Community feedback mostly opposes State College casino
The community feedback submitted to state regulators is documented on the PGCB’s website, the College Township website, and on SayNoCasino.org.
Shaffer said messages opposing the casino outnumber messages in support by a ratio of nearly 50 to 1.
“This feedback clearly demonstrates that the community overwhelmingly opposes the development of the casino,” said Shaffer. “The extensive research and the 63 letters to the editor opposing the casino documented on the Saynocasino’s website categorically refute every argument that we have seen to support the casino’s development. They also provide additional reasons why the proposed casino would be very destructive to both Penn State and the State College community.”
Shaffer said the PGCB should be wise enough to recognize that they have already approved enough casinos throughout Pennsylvania to saturate the state’s gambling market. He also claims adding another casino would cannibalize revenue of existing PA casinos without adding significant state gambling taxes.
“Beyond increasing gambling addiction, crime, and poverty in Central Pennsylvania without providing any significant financial benefit to the state, adding another casino to an already saturated market would significantly reduce the individual profitability of each of Pennsylvania’s other casinos. This would make it more difficult for these other casinos to continue paying taxes while also covering their operating expenses.”
Bally’s Corporation, the proposed Nittany Mall developer, previously sued the host municipalities of its flagship casinos in Rhode Island. Bally’s claimed that COVID-mandated shutdowns severely limited business and they were over-assessed on taxes.
Will local opposition stop State College casino?
Gambling expansion law in PA opened the door for mini-casinos in 2017.
Currently, there are three mini-casinos in PA:
- Live! Casino Pittsburgh
- Hollywood Casino York
- Hollywood Casino Morgantown
Parx’s mini-casino in Shippensburg is scheduled to open in fall 2022.
Since then, there have been various causes for delays and cancellations for PA mini casinos. However, local opposition has not prevented PA mini-casinos from opening.
The three new mini-casinos contributed to a record-breaking year for the gambling industry in Pennsylvania. Revenue from all forms of gambling in Pennsylvania reached over $5 billion for FY 2021/22. It marks the first time PA gaming revenue eclipsed $5 billion, far surpassing last year’s record of $3.8 billion.