Bally’s Enters Partnership for $120m Pennsylvania Casino

  • Bally’s will design, develop, build, and manage the casino with real estate investor Ira Lubert
  • Lubert can apply for a Category 4 casino license after he won a PA gaming board bid last year
  • The casino's construction will begin in the first half of 2021 and should take a year to complete
  • The $120m cost estimate covers the property's building, licensing, and online operations 
  • Bally’s Corporation has been aggressively expanding its casino portfolio despite COVID-19
Ballly's Casino sign
Bally’s Corporation has entered a framework agreement with real estate investor Ira Lubert to jointly set up and run a $120m casino in Pennsylvania. [Image:]

Development timeline

Bally’s Corporation announced on January 4 its plans to build a $120m casino in Pennsylvania after signing a framework agreement for a Category 4 licensed property. The Rhode Island-based gambling company will design, develop, build, and run the facility together with real estate and private equity investor Ira Lubert. 

Lubert got approval to apply for a Category 4 slot machine permit after winning a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board license bid last year. The license allows for a casino operation within 15 miles of Unionville Borough, Centre County. While Bally’s official press release did not name an exact site for the project, it mentioned that the casino will be near the Nittany Mall in State College, an area close to Penn State University.

plan is to start building the casino in the first six months of 2021

Once the gaming regulator gives its relevant approval, the plan is to start building the casino in the first six months of 2021. The total project will take about a year to finish, and the casino will have as many as 750 slot machines and 30 tables games. Also pending licensing permission are an on-site retail sportsbook and the launch of online casino and online sports betting services.

Partnership perks

Bally’s estimates that it will cost $120m to cover all licensing, construction, and online operations needs. The casino company will also hold a majority of the equity through its partnership with Lubert. Additionally, Bally’s will fully own the economic interests of the property’s retail sportsbook and its online gambling and betting operations.

Bally’s Corporation CEO and president George Papanier described the Pennsylvania project as a great way to “cap off a truly extraordinary year”. The company has acquired numerous casino properties across the United States over the past 12 months. 

Papanier believes the partnership with Lubert is ideal, owing to the latter’s ties with the greater Centre County community and his experience within the Pennsylvania gaming sector.

Lubert was also involved in setting up the Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and the Valley Forge Casino Resort near Philadelphia.

Securing a license

Ira Lubert won the auction for a mini-casino license in September 2020, with a bid of just over $10m. He must now submit a formal application to get final regulatory approval. The application requirements include the exact site for the casino, plus details of the construction and employment plans and the amenities.

sports betting requiring a further $10m license fee

A public hearing to consider the application will then take place in the local municipality. An extra fee of $2.5m is necessary if a Category 4 licensee wants to operate table games, with sports betting requiring a further $10m license fee.

Ira Lubert said of the deal with Bally’s Corporation: “I am excited to have Bally’s as our partner to complement our vision, industry experience and financing capabilities.” 

Aggressive expansion

Bally’s Corporation has been busy adding to its portfolio of commercial casinos in the US market. The company already owns and operates 11 casinos across seven states, as well as a racetrack and off-track betting in Colorado. Bally’s also has deals in the pipeline that will grant it ownership of a further three US casinos.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the casino sector across the country, Bally’s Corporation has still been pursuing an aggressive growth strategy. It took advantage of anti-competition requirements in certain states for Caesars Entertainment and Eldorado Resorts to sell some properties ahead of their agreed merger, With Bally’s acquiring a number of these facilities. 

As part of its expansion strategy, the casino company changed its name from Twin River Worldwide Holdings to Bally’s Corporation in November 2020. Caesars Entertainment sold the Bally’s brand to Twin River for $20m.

The casino project in Pennsylvania will mark the operator’s entry into the Keystone State. All commercial casinos in the region had to close down on December 12 amid rising COVID-19 cases. However, with infection numbers improving, the properties received the green light to restart operations on January 4.

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