State lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill on October. The new laws authorize the construction of up to ten satellite casinos across the state. However, none of these mini casinos can be built within a 25-mile radius of one of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos. Plus, municipalities are able to opt out, prohibiting the opening of a satellite casino near them.
The satellite casinos could potentially house anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and start with 30 table games. Plus, that number could go up to as many as 50 over time.
College Township not opting out
A number of Centre County municipalities have already opted out of hosting one of the satellite casinos. The deadline to do so is Dec. 31. However, College Township appears to be standing pat.
In fact, council members agreed to take no action last week. College Township already has city ordinances on the books that restrict where gambling businesses can be located. Moreover, College Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh says the Nittany Mall is really the only feasible location where a satellite casino could go.
The Nittany Mall first opened in 1968. It has expanded through the years to include several anchor stores. However, it was announced in November the Nittany Mall Sears location is closing. In fact, it is one of 18 Sears stores and 45 Kmart locations around the country scheduled to close in late January 2018.
Satellite casino could reinvigorate Nittany Mall
Given the ongoing economic struggles of the mall, the fact it is the only viable location in College Township, and the number of other Centre County municipalities opting out of hosting a satellite casino, Brumbaugh wrote a memo to College Township council saying he strongly believes a satellite casino presents a real opportunity to redevelop the Nittany Mall and surrounding commercially zoned properties.
Pennsylvania State University is partially located in College Township. However, every other municipality in and around the school has opted out of hosting a satellite casino, including State College.
Disaster for Penn State students?
Council President Tom Daubert told the local press a casino could be disastrous for the Penn State student body.
Council member Theresa Lafer said gambling could pose the same addiction risk to students as alcohol.
“One of the problems we have is very young adults trying to figure out what they can and cannot safely do in their lives. We know along with alcohol and drugs, gambling can be an addiction. I would not like to see a casino of any kind, even the simplest slots, sitting in walking distance, because we know some percent of those students are going to find out they are addicted to gambling.”
Existing PA casinos will begin the bidding process for potential satellite casino locations in January 2018.
Under the new laws, satellite casino host municipalities will collect half of the local assessment paid by the operation. This includes two percent of gross revenue from table games and four percent of gross revenue from slot machines.
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