After more than one year of attending remote classes, the students at the University Park Pennsylvania have returned to the main campus. Football games, starting with the first match predicted to attract over 100,000 fans to watch the Nittany Lions play at the Beaver Stadium on Saturday, September 11, 2021, are also expected to return. Despite the return of students and football, there is a different topic trending in the Happy Valley.
Just a few miles off the Penn State University campus, there is Nittany Mall targeted for a casino. One of the significant people behind the project is a Penn State alum, Ira Lubert. Opponents are against the development, claiming it will negatively affect the region.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has asked for public opinion about the proposed Penn State Casino. The majority of emails indicate that most people are opposing the $123 million casino. Opponents insist that a casino will increase crimes and illegal use of drugs, among other negative things. The critics also insist that casinos prey on vulnerable residents.
Lubert has already spent a significant amount to get an operational casino in Penn. He started by winning the PGCB’s satellite casino auction in September 2020 after making a $10 million offer. He later teamed with Bally’s Corporation and invested another $113 million to change a vacant Macy’s department store into a Bally’s branded casino at the Nittany Mall.
More Opposition From State College Residents
Looking at a sample of 90 emails sent to PGCB, only a handful supported the proposed casino. Most, especially State College residents, are in disagreement with bringing a casino in the region.
One College State resident, Jun Luo, said that transforming the old Macy’s into a casino was harmful to the region. Luo added that bringing a casino in the region would damage the highly ranked University, Penn State University. According to Luo, a casino will create a bad reputation for the University and give a bad impression to parents and students who might want to join the University.
Another resident and an associate professor at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology said casinos and college towns do well when mixed. Sharon Huang said that parents did not want to see their kids go to a casino when they should be in class. Sharon added that the glory days for Nittany Mall were past tense, insisting that a casino would drive away family-friendly businesses in the mall and surrounding area.
Some Support the Proposed Casino
Most reviewed emails show most people are rejecting the proposed casino. But, there is a number that supports the project.
Another professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, Dr. Christopher Zorn, believes a casino will positively influence the region. Dr. Zorn has lived in the area for 14 years and hopes to continue living there to raise his 12-year-old-son. The professor believes Bally’s pitch proves that the proposed casino will propel the area’s economy, culture, and development.
College Township contracted a consulting firm whose research concluded Bally’s casino would have a trivial impact on sewer infrastructure, water, traffic, tourism, and first responder calls. For now, the PGCB has to review more public comments during its upcoming meeting on September 15.
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