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New Centre County casino being planned at Nittany Mall

Construction is expected to begin in first half of 2021

STATE COLLEGE — The former Macy’s department store at the Nittany Mall will see second life — soon.

The vacant Macy’s is the site for a new proposed mini-casino in Centre County.

This week, College Township officials received a local impact report, which is required by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The report identified the location for the category 4 casino.

In January, Bally’s Corporation announced that it had signed an agreement with investor and Penn State alumnus Ira Lubert to develop a planned $120 million mini-casino in Centre County.

Pending regulatory approvals, construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2021 and will take approximately one year to complete.

Bally’s signed a framework agreement with Lubert, a real estate and private equity investor, to jointly design, develop, construct and manage the Category 4 licensed casino. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently awarded Lubert the right to apply for a Category 4 slot machine license for a casino to be located within a 15-mile radius of Unionville in Centre County.

Earlier this week, a news release said: “The gaming oversight will do reviews every step of the way, but at the end of the day, these are good paying jobs, and not just for Centre County, but also for people in Clearfield, Huntingdon, and other area counties. These are good paying jobs that we will be able to bring into Centre County.”

Chair of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, Michael Pipe, said that he is looking forward to the process of a casino coming to Centre County.

“The Nittany Mall has new life with the announcement of the casino. I’m looking forward to seeing the feedback from the community during the hearings,” Pipe said. “The county will assist with this transition however possible.”

The new casino is expected to have slot machines and table games. If approved for separate licenses and certificates, it also will provide retail sports betting, online sports betting and online gaming.

A mini-casino allows for 300-750 slot machines. For an additional fee of $2.5 million, a licensee can apply for permission to initially operate up to 30 table games, with an additional 10 after the first year of operation. Sports wagering requires a separate $10 million license fee.

The total project cost, including construction, licensing and sports betting/iGaming operations, is estimated at $120 million. Bally’s will acquire a majority equity interest in the partnership, including 100 percent of interests of all retail sports betting, online sports betting and iGaming activities.

In 2018, Lubert was the authorized member of Nittany Gaming LLC, which signed a memorandum of lease option for the former Bon-Ton space in the Nittany Mall. But at a 2019 auction for a category 4 license there were no bidders.

A total of 20 Centre County municipalities opted to prohibit being the site of a mini-casino when the state began awarding category 4 licenses in 2017. College Township did not, citing potential development in the mall area, nor did nearby Benner Township.

A mini-casino could breathe some life into the Nittany Mall area, which has lost several anchor stores in the past couple of years. Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney and Bon-Ton have left the mall. Currently, there is just one anchor store at the mall — Dunham’s Sports — though Rural King is slated to take over the former Sears site. Rural King is expected to open later in 2021. The mall also recently lost Sears Automotive, which was a standalone garage at the back of the mall.

The Macy’s space is ideal for a casino because there is ample free parking on that side of the mall. A standalone McDonald’s sits near state Route 26, near the entrance to the mall.

The mini-casino will create hundreds of jobs for Centre County.

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