State College Borough Council passed a resolution earlier this week that prevents a satellite casino from being built within the city’s limits.
The action comes as a result of Governor Tom Wolf (D) signing a massive gambling expansion package into law in late October that authorizes up to 10 so-called “mini casinos” in rural areas.
The satellite gambling venues would allow for up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games. But State College, which becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania when the Penn State Nittany Lions play football games and pack over 100,000 fans into Beaver Stadium on fall Saturdays, wants nothing to do with gambling.
In a unanimous decision, the Borough Council approved the resolution to opt-out of the Category 4 casino host list. Municipalities have until December 31 to pass resolutions and notify the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board that they do not wish to be a part of the bidding process.
As of Monday, about 150 municipalities had opted out.
No… For Now
The State College Council says it’s simply protecting its future options by approving the resolution. Towns have the right to remove their Category 4 license ban at a later date, but not enact one.
“If we let this go and don’t pass it before the end of the year … we are stuck with a particular choice we may or may not want down the line. I would rather see how this works in other communities, then make a decision on it,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer explained.
Pennsylvania’s 10 full-fledged casino operators will be able to bid on the satellite locations sometime in 2018. Minimum bids will start at $7.5 million, with the highest bidder taking the rural location of their choice (that hasn’t opted out). Operators will pay an additional $2.5 million on top of their bid to include table games.
Slot machines will be taxed at an effective rate of 54 percent and table games at 14 percent. Four percent of the tax revenue will be earmarked for the host community.
Casino at Nowhere Park
State College was seen as a preferred location for a satellite casino. The university keeps a constant flow of travelers visiting the rural central Pennsylvania town, and the football aspect is of course a major draw.
Along with the satellites, the gambling expansion measure sets the legal groundwork for Pennsylvania to legalize sports betting should a change come to the current federal ban. The US Supreme Court will begin deliberating New Jersey’s appeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on Monday.
Having a legalized sports betting casino in State College with a top-ranked college football program presumably would have brought tens of thousands of visitors to the gambling venue each year. But for now, there will be no such establishment. Lancaster, another expected target for casinos, is also removing itself from the running.
It’s becoming slim pickings for gaming operators. However, a few preferred candidates remain, including Williamsport, Reading, York, and Altoona, with the three latter all being home to a Penn State satellite campus.