Good News For Bally’s PA: Economic Impact, Traffic Studies Give Glowing Reviews Of State College Mini-Casino Plans

Posted By Derek Helling on April 19, 2021

Two independent studies looking at the impact of a State College mini-casino follow the old moniker of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” By and large, the conclusions of research into how the gambling facility will affect the local economy and traffic in the immediate area are glowingly positive.

The economic study suggests revenues well over $100 million on an annual basis after the first decade of operation. The findings state the value of the casino to the city, county, and state will be even greater, though.

Results of the State College mini-casino studies

David E. Wooster and Associates performed the traffic study at the request of the mini-casino’s proprietor, Ira Lubert. Last September, Lubert won the auction for the gaming license with a bid of $10,000,101.

For context, a mini-casino is limited to 750 slot machines and 30 table gaming positions. A year after opening, they have an option to up that number of table gaming positions by 10. Fully-fledged casinos in PA can operate over 2,000 slot machines.

Lubert plans to renovate the old Macy’s store at the Nittany Mall in College Township. The mall lies at the intersection of Rte 26 and Rte 150, just off the I-99 corridor. In a way, the fading of shopping malls works in Lubert’s favor.

The traffic study concludes that because the mall’s ordinary traffic has dwindled, whatever traffic the casino brings essentially creates a “push.” The surrounding roadways were built to handle traffic from the mall’s glory days. Wooster doesn’t expect the casino to generate more traffic than saturated the streets at that time.

Economic study shows a win for PA and Centre County

The economic study is even more of a win for Lubert. Some highlights include:

  • Projected revenues of $91 million in the first year, rising to $116 million in the 10th year
  • $146.6 million in economic impact to the state of Pennsylvania within the first year
  • 480 permanent jobs within College Township within a decade
  • $60,000 worth of new tax revenue for Centre County per year

While these are third-party studies, it’s important to remember that Lubert paid for their completion. It appears he got what he paid for. They are essential parts of his license application, so the fact that they are complete makes one more item to cross off the checklist.

That means the mini-casino is closer to becoming reality.

When can PA gamblers expect Bally’s PA to open?

Provided the PA Gaming Control Board approves the license, construction should begin this year. If everything goes well, that signals a potential opening sometime in 2022. Lubert has already contracted with Bally’s to operate the casino.

For that reason, Bally Bets will become available online in PA at some point in the future, too. Again, the timeline on that is unknown. Recently, the gambling company saw a bit of a setback in rolling out its online gambling product.

Bally Bets online sportsbook also likely headed to PA

The Indiana Gaming Commission has yet to approve Bally’s acquisition of Bet.Works. That regulatory approval is necessary for the transaction to close. Until then, Bally’s can’t finish the process of reconfiguring the platform to its branding.

Also uncertain is whether Bally’s will activate the Bet.Works platform to offer PA online casino play. The platform promises “the latest casino content across slots, video poker, and all table game variants.” The site also mentions live dealer and poker capabilities.

Building out a competitive menu of online casino games would require Bally’s to work with vendors like IGT and NetEnt, though. Whether or not Bally’s executes contracts along those lines over the next year will signal the brand’s intentions in regard to iGaming in PA.

The favorable completion of these studies signals everything is coming along for Bally’s State College mini-casino. If that continues, the renovation in the Nittany Mall should begin soon.

Meanwhile, Penn National’s Hollywood mini-casinos in York and Morgantown are preparing to open later this year. Those will follow the first mini-casino in the state, Live! Pittsburgh, which opened in Nov. 2020.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Wayne Parry

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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