What’s going on with the mini-casino near State College, PA?
The proposed mini-casino at the Nittany Mall failed to have its license approved by the state regulatory agency responsible for overseeing gambling, leaving the project months behind schedule.
The casino is expected to fetch hundreds of millions of dollars and revitalize the mall, but it’s not without its critics. Some of the most common jokes are the potential increase in crime, a decrease in nearby property values, and gambling addiction.
Here is where the project is:
What is the heist?
Construction was originally scheduled to begin in the second half of 2021, pending regulatory approvals. It turned out to be a mixed bag.
College Township gave the green light to the project in September. Its approval allowed the reconfiguration of parking, sidewalks and lighting.
“No further action is required from the township for the project to proceed,” Director Adam Brumbaugh wrote in an email Thursday.
This left the casino‘s developers with two regulatory hurdles remaining: getting its license approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and getting building permits approved by the Center Region Code Administration.
The PGCB hosted one of two required hearings in August, where project developers, a senior state lawmaker and industry leaders discussed the proposal.
The second hearing was scheduled to take place in the fall in Harrisburg, but that has yet to happen. No date has been set either, PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach wrote in an email.
The board meets once a month. Its next meeting is scheduled for January 19, but the license will not be approved at that time, Harbach wrote. That would push the vote on the license to February 23 “at the earliest”, he added.
What happens if the license is approved?
If the approximately $120 million project receives all necessary approvals, construction should be complete in about a year. Bally’s, which has teamed up with Penn State alum Ira Lubert, did not immediately respond to a request for an updated schedule.
The license would limit the size of the casino, meaning it could have no more than 750 slots or 30 table games. It’s about a quarter to half the size of most other casinos in the state.
Developers plan to renovate the approximately 94,000 square foot space that previously housed Macy’s. A sportsbook, restaurant and bar are part of their plans.
The casino is expected to employ 350 to 400 full-time equivalent positions.
How much money are we talking about?
College Township is expected to receive more than $1.6 million in the casino’s first year of operation, according to a consultant hired by the company that oversees the casino. This would represent a 16% increase in the canton’s general budget.
If Econsult Solutions’ projections are correct, the state would receive approximately $2 million per year in revenue, sales and taxes.
The company estimated that the casino would bring in around $91 million in its first year of operation and around $116 million in its 10th year.
It is also expected that more businesses will be drawn to the mall, which has been seen in similar areas across the state. The mall is currently about 50% occupied.
What is the potential downside?
It is unclear whether crime could increase or otherwise weigh on first responders, some of the most common grievances filed by those opposing the project.
The State College Police and the directors of the Alpha Fire Company each expect the casino to have a negligible effect on their operations.
One study estimated “some impact on EMS”, although LifeLink Center EMS chief Kent Knable said he did not anticipate “further capacity issues”.
What is clear, according to the National Association of Realtors, is the effect a casino has on the value of nearby properties. The trade association said it was “unambiguously negative”.
And the Institute for American Values has shown that people who live near a casino are twice as likely to become problem gamblers as those who live more than ten miles away.
For months, locals have written to the PGCB about the casino, with many opposing the plan and citing concerns such as crime and the impact of gambling addiction on Penn State and University students. others, according to reports posted on the PGCB website.
Those who urged the Gambling Control Commission to accept the proposal pointed to the mall’s potential revitalization and the need for more adult entertainment venues.