New Pennsylvania Casino Remains On Hold Due To Lawsuit Against State

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on July 27, 2022
On Hold In Pennsylvania Is Their New Satellite Casino

Pennsylvania businessman Ira Lubert’s proposed $120 million casino is now on hold following litigation against the state. A lawsuit by The Cordish Companies, the group behind the Live! Casino brand, is challenging the state gaming board’s decision to award Lubert a US casino license. 

Lubert’s vision for the project at the Nittany Mall would include Pennsylvania sports betting, 750 slot machines, and 30 table games. Unfortunately, it’s unknown if PA online casinos are part of the casino plans.

New Pennsylvania casino on hold 

In 2020, Lubert was the highest bidder during the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s (PGCB) category-4 satellite casino auction. The entrepreneur partnered with Bally’s Corporation on plans to transform a former Macy’s department store in State College, PA into a casino. 

The Cordish Companies operate Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino Pittsburgh. The group’s lawsuit states the PGCB wrongfully allowed Lubert to bid on a casino license. 

Additionally, the PGCB has pushed pause on issuing Bally’s a casino permit due to other non-casino-related concerns. The gaming board recently ordered a comprehensive traffic study on the three satellite casinos already open in the state.

The three satellite casinos are:

  • Live! Pittsburgh
  • Hollywood Casino York
  • Hollywood Casino Morgantown

The gaming board wants to determine how traffic levels have fared outside the three properties compared to pre-opening levels. State regulars have said the earliest the board might vote on the project is October 19.

Bidding on a PA satellite casino

After the PGCB failed to receive qualifying bids in the early auction rounds, the board expanded bidding to include individuals. However, one essential requirement was any individual had to be an investor in any of the state’s other brick-and-mortar casinos. 

Lubert, who maintains a 3% ownership position in Rivers Casino Pittsburg, met the critical requirement and thus was allowed to bid on a category-4 casino license. Lubert outbid the Cordish group during the 2020 auction after he offered $10,000,101 for the license. 

Another part of the lawsuit claims while individuals were allowed to bid on the casino license, they were not allowed to strike up partnerships with other companies such as Bally’s. 

Part of the lawsuit reads:

“[The PGCB] permitted only such persons to bid; it did not permit eligible bidders to shoehorn into their bids persons or entities that were prohibited from bidding themselves.”

Although the lawsuit might be inconvenient for Lubert, Bally’s can focus its resources on other expansion plans.

Last week, Bally’s launched online casinos in Canada. For now, the app – Bally Bet – offers online casino games but not sports betting. The company also beat out Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming for the opportunity to open Chicago’s first mega casino

Other outside opposition remains

The Bally’s/Lubert casino plan continues to face opposition from anti-casino groups. One reason is that the proposed casino site is only a six-minute drive from Penn State University. During the state’s public comment period, the PGCB received roughly 5,000 messages opposing the casino plan.

The state’s Commonwealth Court reviewed the case in March but has yet to issue a ruling. For now, all Bally’s and Lubert can do is wait. 

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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick Garcia is a senior reporter for PlayUSA. Garcia provides analysis and in-depth coverage of the gambling industry with a key focus on online casinos, sports betting and financial markets. Garcia has been covering the US gambling market since 2017. He attended Texas Tech University as an undergrad and received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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