State College Community Speaks Out in Opposition of Bally’s Casino Near Penn State

Posted on: January 23, 2023, 02:07h. 

Last updated on: January 23, 2023, 04:15h.

If there are State College residents who support allowing Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corporation to redevelop the former Macy’s department store at the Nittany Mall into a casino, hasn’t heard from them.

We have, however, fielded hundreds of comments from concerned Centre County citizens who think gambling should stay far away from Penn State University Park.

State College casino Bally's Penn State University
Penn State University Park seen from above, looking northeast. The State College community has come out in opposition to a Bally’s casino planned for the Nittany Mall, located just a few miles from the university’s main campus. (Image: Penn State University)

Bally’s partnered with Penn State alumnus and former university trustee Ira Lubert. The alliance was made soon after he won the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s (PGCB) September 2020 auction for a Category 4 satellite casino. Lubert outbid Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which operates two casinos in Pennsylvania — Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino Pittsburgh, the latter being a Category 4 property.

Lubert and Cordish qualified to participate in the September 2020 auction because they held ownership stakes in a slot machine license in the Commonwealth. Lubert owns a 3% stake in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.

Bally’s didn’t qualify, as the company doesn’t have any vested interest in a Pennsylvania slot license. Cordish contends that Lubert orchestrated a scheme with Bally’s before the auction that ran afoul of the state’s bidding rules. As such, Cordish believes the state should dismiss Lubert and Bally’s Category 4 license application.

The PGCB will hear from Cordish during its meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, January 25. The hearing will also include comments from Bally’s reps and the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Counsel.

State College Opposition

Pennsylvania greatly expanded gaming in 2017. The law authorized iGaming, retail and online sports betting, video gaming terminals at truck stops, fantasy sports, and Category 4 casinos.

The law provided townships and municipalities with the right to opt out of being considered for a Category 4 development — commonly referred to as “mini-casinos” and “satellite casinos.” More than 1,000 local governments did just that. But somewhat surprisingly, because of its close proximity to Penn State, where more than 46K undergrads live and study, College Township remained in the bidding pool.

It’s a decision the College Township council has since expressed regret about. That’s after the local community spoke out in considerable opposition to allowing a casino to come to Centre County.

During PGCB’s public input period, the state received more than 5,000 letters expressing disagreement with Bally’s plan based on a multitude of concerns. Since the public input period closed, the Penn State community has turned to media outlets covering the controversial matter, with being one such source, to keep their voices being heard. has received hundreds of emails and comments expressing antagonism to the Bally’s State College project. Our January 14 coverage garnered 151 comments in opposition alone. The news story collected just one comment in support. To read the comments, click here.

Public Opinion Considered

The PGCB has promised the local opposition that the state will weigh the community feedback in making its final decision as to whether to grant Bally’s an operating license for College Township.

But since College Township didn’t opt out of the Category 4 bidding before the state’s August 2019 deadline, it’s unclear whether the PGCB would be willing to deny Bally’s a gaming license simply on the grounds of public opposition.

A likelier path to halting Bally’s project comes from Cordish. Regardless of which direction the gaming board takes, a legal appeal is likely. Title 4, which consists of the state’s gaming laws, directs the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to handle PGCB licensing appeals.

If the PGCB signs off on the Bally’s State College casino, Cordish is likely to appeal. But if the PGCB decides to terminate Bally’s plan because of the Cordish allegation or simply because the public seemingly opposes the development, Bally’s would be expected to appeal that decision.