Casino operator Bally’s Corp has struck a deal to build a new Pennsylvania mini-casino, just as the state’s existing gambling venues reopen following their latest pandemic shutdown.
On Monday, Bally’s (formerly known as Twin River Worldwide Holdings) announced that it had signed a ‘framework agreement’ with real estate developer Ira Lubert, who holds a Pennsylvania Category 4 casino license, to “develop, construct and manage” such a casino within a 15-mile radius of Unionville Borough in Centre County (near Penn State University).
Bally’s says construction will get underway sometime in H1, with completion expected to take around a year. Once complete, the property will boast up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games, while the partners will also seek the right to launch retail and online sports betting along with online casino products.
The project will cost around $120m and Bally’s will hold a majority stake in the finished casino, including 100% of its sports betting and iGaming activity. The deal requires the standard regulatory approvals and other closing conditions, but those don’t appear to be in any serious doubt.
Bally’s has been on an expansionist tear over the past few years, with a particular eye for retail opportunities in states where online betting and casino products were possible. Bally’s CEO George Papanier said Monday that planting the flag in Pennsylvania was “a great way to cap off a truly exceptional year.”
Pennsylvania welcomed the first of its Category 4 casinos in late November as Cordish Companies launched its Live! Casino Pittsburgh facility. But that party was spoiled on December 12 when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all of the state’s gaming venues – along with most other non-essential retail businesses – to shut for the second time due to COVID-19.
That suspension was officially lifted on Monday, although casinos will only be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. And casinos in the Philadelphia area (SugarHouse, Rivers Casino Philadelphia) will face additional restrictions (no indoor dining, for example) until January 15.