Public comment period on casino at Nittany Mall to end | Centre County Gazette

Preliminary design rendering of the exterior of the proposed mini-casino at the Nittany Mall. Image

Preliminary design rendering of the exterior of the proposed mini-casino at the Nittany Mall. Image by Nelson Worldwide

HARRISBURG — Those wishing to submit public comments concerning the proposed Category 4 casino at the Nittany Mall have until June 12 to do so.

According to a press release, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board decided to end the public comment period because “the board believes sufficient time has passed to receive adequate public comment on the matter. That period began on July 21, 2021, prior to a public input hearing in College Township on Aug. 16 of that year. The board had previously decided that due to special circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the period for public comment would remain open.”

The board has yet to set a date for a public hearing, which would be held in Harrisburg, where SC Gaming Op Co. LLC representatives and the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Counsel will offer any updated evidence and make oral argument as to whether the license should be granted.

In September, College Township approved a land development plan for the proposed casino in the former Macy property at the mall.

Few major modifications are planned for the exterior of the 94,000-square-foot building, which inside is expected to have 750 slot machines, 30 table games and sports betting, along with a restaurant and bar and a multi-outlet, quick-serve food and beverage area.

Investor and former Penn State trustee Ira Lubert had a winning bid of $10 million at a September 2020 auction for a new license for a Category 4 casino that would be located in Centre County. In January, Bally’s Corporation announced it had signed an agreement with Lubert to develop the planned $123 million mini-casino. In March, SC Gaming Op Co. LLC, the entity formed by Lubert to develop the casino, submitted an application and local impact report that identified the anchor spot at the College Township mall as its location.

On the application to the PGCB, SC Gaming Op Co. lists Lubert — who is based in the Philadelphia area, but owns a home and businesses in State College — as the company’s president and Ara Kervandjian, Robert Poole and Richard Sokolov as vice presidents. Kervandjian and Poole are prolific Centre County developers. Sokolov is vice chairman of retail real estate company Simon Property Group and a prominent Penn State benefactor.

Lubert was the lead partner in the group that developed and operated Valley Forge Casino Resort before it was acquired by Boyd Gaming Corporation in 2018.

Attendees at the Aug. 16 PGCB public input hearing at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center mostly spoke in favor of the proposed casino, though since then, more than 100 residents have written in opposition.

At that public input meeting, Lubert said, “I believe the Category 4 casino I intend to construct at the Nittany Mall will reinvigorate the property and draw many new businesses to the mall itself and the surrounding area. This, in turn, will create jobs and help drive the region’s economy forward, and with Penn State’s immense alumni base and other visitors flooding into the area throughout the year, not just football season, we will provide a new entertainment venue that everyone can enjoy.”

Development and construction are projected to create, in the short-term, 350 direct full-time-equivalent jobs and 170 indirect jobs, with a net one-time economic impact of $43.6 million for College Township and $61.4 million for the county.

The casino is expected to employ 350 to 400 full-time-equivalent positions, offering a “very competitive compensation and benefits package.”

The report projects $121.6 million in direct and indirect annual economic impact within the township economy. In Centre County, the study estimates $164 million annual economic impact, supporting 740 jobs.

Host municipalities and counties receive 2 percent of a casino’s slot machine revenue and 1 percent of table game and sports book revenues.

The impact study estimates the gaming revenues and taxes would yield $1.6 million for College Township in the first year of operation and $2 million at stabilization.

If license approvals are granted, construction of the casino is expected to take about one year.

Written comments can be submitted directly through the PGCB’s website from a link on the board’s homepage.

Comments can be offered through email ([email protected]); fax (717-265-7416); or standard mail to PA Gaming Control Board, 303 Walnut St., 5th Floor Commonwealth Tower, Harrisburg, PA 17101.

Any comments received after this time will not be included in the record for the board’s consideration.

Geoff Rushton, managing editor of , contributed to this report.

Public comment period on casino at Nittany Mall to end