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Letters: Penn State’s Continued Silence on Casino; More Accurate Casino Impact Assessment Needed

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Open Letter to Penn State University President Bendapudi

Dear President Bendapudi,

Please do not continue to disregard the proposed Nittany Mall Casino. It was no oversight that your office chose to ignore my Open Letter to you of June 1.  As you know, Penn State has chosen to never mention the Nittany Mall Casino publicly. 

As I suggested last month, please consider integrating college gambling education and prevention efforts into existing Penn State programs about alcohol, drugs and other risky behaviors.

Penn State has already responded vigorously to alcohol-related problems. Without exception, all colleges and universities have policies on student alcohol use. However, only 22 percent have a formal policy on gambling. Do you agree that those without policies in place have the responsibility to inform students of the risks of excessive gambling as well as how to recognize the escalation of recreational gambling into problem gambling and finally into a gambling addiction? Now is the time for Penn State to meet that challenge and implement a formal policy on gambling. 

Now is not the time for Penn State to continue to adamantly refuse to even acknowledge the proposal for Bally’s Corporation to open a casino in the vacant Macy’s store at the now dying Nittany Mall.

The Penn State Board of Trustees also maintains their steadfast and resolute silence. To the board members, the proposed casino is a non-issue, a done deal, and is strictly off-limits from discussion in public by any member of the Board.

I believe the local media in Happy Valley is ready to reestablish a laser-focus on this issue and to redouble their efforts to report on Penn State’s continuing refusal to speak out publicly as to whether Penn State University supports the approval or the denial of the casino’s license application for the proposed Nittany Mall casino.

Your predecessor chose to ignore our pleas to address this issue. We are confident you will not make that same choice. Please respond!

Daniel Materna

How Much Would Police Calls Really Increase with New Casino?

The impact report for the Nittany Mall Casino prepared by Econsult Solutions Inc. (ESI) estimates that the proposed casino will generate “an additional 6.2 calls for police each month, representing an approximate 1.7 percent increase in non-traffic related police calls for the State College Police Department.” However, the divergence between ESI’s estimates for crime at the York Galleria casino and the actual levels of crime observed at that casino since it opened suggest that these numbers are vastly underestimated.

According to ESI’s impact report for the York Galleria casino, as reported by York Dispatch, “Springettsbury police calls are expected to increase ‘an average of 4.1 additional calls per month’ and ‘6.6 phone calls per month at max build-out,’ which is an ‘estimated 0.5 percent increase and 0.8 percent increase in nontraffic-related police calls…’”

Here is what the York Daily Record has to say about the actual levels of crime at the York casino:

“Hollywood Casino York has been open in Springettsbury Township for nearly three months now, and local and state police have been called to respond there more than 100 times [i.e. 108 calls in less than 3 months].

“The nature of the calls vary: theft, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and compulsive gamblers who are not permitted inside a casino.

“Overall, it’s been status quo compared with other casinos around the commonwealth, state police spokeswoman Grace Griffaton said.”

The actual frequency of police calls at the York casino is more than 8 times larger than what ESI estimated in their impact report. If ESI’s estimates for the Nittany Mall Casino are off by the same factor that their estimates for York were, we should expect to see more than 54 calls for police being generated by the Nittany Mall Casino each month – or about one every 13 hours. This represents a 15% increase in the calls to the State College Police Department, rather than the 1.7% increase claimed in the impact report. We should not be surprised if the Nittany Mall Casino generates a similar level of crime to the York mall casino, both because the casino at the York mall is similar to the proposed casino at the Nittany Mall, and also because State Police say that the actual level of crime at the York casino is “status quo compared with other casinos around the commonwealth.”

The gross inaccuracy of ESI’s impact report for the York casino calls into question the validity of their impact report for the proposed Nittany Mall Casino.  The College Township Council should reconsider their prior decision to approve the development of the proposed Nittany Mall Casino on the basis of the information contained in that report.

Please e-mail the College Township Council at [email protected] and respectfully ask them to seek a more accurate assessment of the additional crime that would be generated by the proposed Nittany Mall Casino before deciding whether or not to allow the proposed development of the Nittany Mall Casino to proceed.

Andrew Shaffer,
State College