State College Casino Approved Despite Public Opposition Spotlight PA State College

This story was created by Spotlight PA’s State College Area Departmentis an independent, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to investigative and public service journalism in Pennsylvania. Sign up for our local newsletter, Talk of the Town.

STATE COLLEGE — In January, despite months of documented public opposition, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) unanimously approved the casino slated for Nittany Mall .

Andrew Shaffer, who runs the website SayNoCasino.orgwhich has been at the forefront of the anti-casino movement and has gathered signatures from thousands of State University area residents who oppose the project. I think it will have a negative impact on college students.

A “mini casino” with 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games per state regulations has been criticized by residents who feel they were not included in the approval process.

So why couldn’t the opposition movement stop the project? Shaffer speculates that part of the reason behind PGCB’s approval was “pressure” from the gambling industry, but there is another explanation. lies in the regulatory procedures behind the development of casinos. A 2017 state law required college townships to allow casino potential before licenses were available in Center County.

A 2017 law called Act 42 created 10 mini-casino licenses to be distributed throughout Pennsylvania, including a municipal opt-out period that began in November of that year and closed after about 60 days. I was there.

At the December 7, 2017 council meeting, College Township chose not to opt out and remained a potential casino location — one of 14 municipalities in the Center Region to do soAt that time, the members of the council were Nittany Mor, that’s all Places you can go due to township restrictions on gambling will be popular places with one council member call The chances of that happening are “very low”.

Abbie Dray / Center Daily Times

A “mini-casino” is planned in the space previously occupied by Macy’s.

College township manager Adam Brumbaugh told Spotlight PA that the municipality’s gaming policies, combined with a desire to address the “worsening economic situation” at Nittany Mall, ultimately drove the council’s decision. rice field.

This short opt-out period, combined with a jumbled order of decision-making, limited the opportunity for the public to voice their opinions. Said he did not attend the public meetings of the Shipp by opponents of the casino.

“At the time, I didn’t have a license. [for Centre County] It was available,” said Brumbaugh. “It was never taken up as a point of discussion from the public.”

The 2017 law language allows local governments to decide at any time whether to opt in or become a potential casino host, but once opted out, opting out is prohibited. said this aspect of the 2017 law was “biased in favor of casino developers.” College Township, based on the opinion of its attorneys, said: I believe Due to changes in state law, we could have opted out until July 2, 2019, but we missed that opportunity.

Blaine Lucas, a Pittsburgh-based zoning law attorney, said the main difference between casino developments and other land developments is that the former are “directed largely by state legislatures,” rather than local governments or private corporations. “I will do it.”

“Difficult to compare” [gaming legislation] There’s a pretty weird legislative regime out there, so it could be used for other things,” Lucas said. “It’s certainly not typical.”

For more than two years after College Township did not opt ​​out, the gaming industry has been largely silent in the region. In September 2020, Ira Lubert, a former member of the Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University, won his license for mini-his casino at a PGCB auction and sold it to his former Macy’s at Nittany Mall under a company called SC Gaming. chose to build.

Lubert won the auction with a bid of $10,000,101 and submitted a license application on March 2, 2021. Lubert owns his 3% stake in Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino and opened Valley Forge his resort in the Philadelphia suburb in 2012, which he later sold. $280 million.

Shaffer first learned about the casino in August 2021, when PGCB hosted the first public hearing on the project. He said scheduling public hearings at that time would prevent public participation.

“That date was… picked when as many people as possible were out of town,” Shaffer said.

“I’ve heard from hundreds of people that they didn’t know casinos were coming, even though the battle was well underway.”

The PGCB public input period began on July 21, 2021 and remained open much longer than the usual 30-day window. However, due to this extended period, the PGCB did not allow comment at its most recent (and final) hearing held in January of this year when the license was granted.

As a result, the public record states: Two persons Not mentioned are the thousands of signatures that SayNoCasino has collected against the casino.

Schaefer and other community members requested that the College Township Council submit a letter to the PGCB outlining its public disapproval, but the township refused.

“We have received a lot of letters from people in the opposition community,” Brambeau said. “After consulting with an attorney, the attorney advised that it could be construed as a form of interference that could create liability for the Township if the SC were not granted a license, so I forwarded the letter of concern. I decided not to play games.

Currently, the only thing that could stand between SC Gaming and its Nittany Mall casino is a 2 against PGCB filed by Cordish Companies, which own gambling business Stadium Casino and lost their licensing bid in 2020. two parallel lawsuits.

The first, filed in federal court, claims that SC Gaming’s mini-casino license should be revoked because of its partnership with Bally’s Corporation, which signed the project in January 2021. months after winning the auction. Cordish claims that Rubert funded the bid with the help of Bally’s, which Cordish claims is prohibited by 2017 law. The company also alleges that PGCB should not have considered SC Gaming’s application at all.

The second case, an appeal against PGCB’s license itself, was appealed directly to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

On April 5, a federal judge dismissed a stay request from SC Gaming that would have prevented the case from proceeding pending a ruling by the state Supreme Court. The judge said a subordinate court case requires a record of facts before the state Supreme Court can consider it.

If the Kordish win and Rubert’s license is revoked, the stadium will have the option to build a casino in another city, and build in populous locations such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that already operate other casinos. You may choose to

Until then, SayNoCasino will continue to voice its disapproval, Shaffer said.

“I am not enthusiastic [Stadium] Getting a license and building casinos elsewhere,” he said.

Lilly Riddle is a journalist at the Pennsylvania State University News Lab and an intern at Spotlight PA’s State College Regional Bureau.

support this journalism Help energize local news in north central Pennsylvania. spotlight PA is foundation and readers like you Those working in public service journalism with accountability and results. State College Casino Approved Despite Public Opposition Spotlight PA State College

Related Articles

Back to top button