Local media is reporting that Bally’s Corp has secured a mini-casino license in Pennsylvania making it number 17 of 18 casinos with 15 operating properties so far.
The Category 4 license will allow the Rhode Island operator to place 750 slot machines and an initial tranche of 30 tables in the former Macy’s space at the Nittany Mall at 2901 E. College Ave. at the intersections of Route 150 and Route 26 in State College, Pennsylvania. Macy’s was one of the last anchor retailers at the mall.
The former Macy’s space is owned by Philadelphia’s 2901 ECA Associates LLC, not by the mall’s owners. Bally’s will join about 40 other merchants at the enclosed regional Centre County shopping center.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) faced a late spate of resistance along with long-standing opposition from community groups opposed to gambling generally and near-local competitors, the Cordish Group.
The casino will be in a Shopping Mall
A local operator, as required under the Category 4 license, SC Gaming OpCo LLC will turn the former retail space into a gambling center with Bally’s operating the casino. The 94,000-square-foot space at Nittany Mall will reopen floor space that has been shuttered since Macy’s closed in 2020.
It is perhaps the hardest fight Bally’s has seen in its shock and awe push into the American land casino gaming space. The company struggled but prevailed to become the singular casino operator in America’s 3rd largest city, with a casino in Chicago coming soon.
Bally’s has grown quickly after transitioning a couple of video lottery terminal gaming sites in the small state of Rhode Island into a national brand helped by the merger of Caesars and El Dorado in Nevada – which helped it secure about a dozen properties. The company has been fearless but flexible in its ambitions.
Bally’s recently announced an immediate cut of 15% of its North American Interactive workforce. The company’s acquisition of the UK’s Gamesys for $2.7 Billion in 2021 did not enable it to capture enough of the current US online casino business and it’s now separate North American Interactive division has failed so far to reach sufficient profitability in the sports betting market in America. However, the company has managed to gain 18 sports betting licenses in the US.
Sports betting in Canada has turned out to be more of a bust rather than the capture of $15b in the flight of capital promoted by government-associated pressure groups prior to the legalization of single-event sports bets. The recent launch of a PlayNow casino brand in Canada’s second richest province (by per capita income) has only seen about 5% of wagers occurring in sports with the balance turned over to casino games like slots.
Prior to awarding the license, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board conducted an in-depth background check on the operator. Such reports are rarely released to the public as they contain sensitive and proprietary information, trade secrets, and the like. Comments from citizens, public officials, and community groups were reportedly taken into consideration.
In recent months, nearby competitors, that would expect to lose business to another casino in the area have mounted opposition to the project, and “grassroots” efforts joined the fight with maximum verbosity.
Written comments have not been accepted officially since June 12, 2022, and the final public hearing was held on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, before the vote was taken. College Township granted conditional approval for the casino’s land development plan in September 2021.
Depending on the opening date, the casino will be Bally’s 17th or 18th including the temporary casino in Chicago which will close when the main venue opens. Bally’s Chicago grand opening is expected in late 2025 or early 2026. A temporary casino could open as early as this Spring.
Opening date not confirmed
No opening date for the State College casino has been announced, but construction is expected to take 12 months once it is begun. It is expected to support about 350 full-time construction jobs throughout the course of build-out.
The full cost to Bally’s of opening the gaming site with 750 slot machines, 30 gaming tables, a sportsbook, fast food and beverage outlets, and a concert/events stage is expected to be about $120 million with $35 million of that devoted to upfront construction costs.
The casino will also be the 18th Pennsylvania casino as well as the 5th mini-casino. Parx Casino Shippensburg, also a mini-casino, held a soft opening on Thursday and will celebrate its Grand Opening on February 3, 2023. Cordish also owns and operates Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino Pittsburgh.
It may still be possible for Cordish attorneys to appeal the PGCB awarding a license to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with some observers believing the license cannot be issued until any appeals have run their course. According to PlayPennsylvania, local resident Andrew Shaffer said: “It is also possible that the Commonwealth Court will overturn the PGCB’s granting of the license as a result of the parallel court case that is still ongoing.”
Source: State gives green light for new Bally’s mini-casino near Penn State University, PennLive, January 25, 2023