GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- America's shopping malls took a real hit during the pandemic, and holiday sales are not enough to save some of them.
There is one thing that seems to be helping, and the Westmoreland Mall is a good example.
America has over 1,100 enclosed shopping malls, but one analysis found that some 750 anchor tenants at many malls are closed and empty right now. Replacing those tenants is not easy.
Shopping malls depend on foot traffic -- getting people into the doors to spend money on everything from clothes to goods to food to entertainment.
When a mall loses its anchor tenants, smaller shops often fail, too.
But some malls that seemed to be in decline have made a comeback with something not usually identified at a mall -- casinos.
The Westmoreland Mall, owned by CBL Properties, is a good example where the decision of Live! Casino Pittsburgh to locate there a year ago has brought new life back to the mall.
"We're an anchor tenant. We're like Nordstrom. We're like Macy's. We're like JCPenney. We bring people to the campus," Sean Sullivan, general manager of Live! Casino Pittsburgh, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.
"We have our main entrance, which is accessible to the parking lot, and then we have two other entrances, which is fantastic, both on the first and second floor that's directly from the mall," Sullivan said.
"That has really been a catalyst for new leasing activities and increased traffic at the mall," said Stacey Keating, a spokesperson for CBL Properties. "It's been such a wonderful addition for us, and it's spurred considerable new leasing."
"We have seen traffic increases of double digits since the casino opened," Keating said.
It's worked so well the company has welcomed another casino at another location.
"We actually own another mall in Pennsylvania in York that just opened a Hollywood Casino in a former Sears building," she said.
Sullivan said being at the Westmoreland Mall has brought more people in to enjoy the many gaming options or even try the casino food.
"Here, ma or pa might be shopping, and the other one might be here in the casino. So it really gives folks a great opportunity to do whatever they choose to do, whether it's eat in the mall or the property, shop, or come in here and try your luck at slots or table games," Sullivan said.
"Maybe the spouse might go to the casino, and the wife will come and shop at the mall," notes Judy Miller.
Miller owns a women's store, Millers' Prom & Formal Wear, and she says she moved to the mall last year because of the casino.
"We decided it would provide more foot traffic there because of the casino," Miller said.
Delano: Has it been a good decision for you?
Miller: Yes, it has been very, very good for us.
Keating says shops are returning to the mall like Charlotte Russe and Christopher & Banks, along with SpectroDolce Confectionary, Western Edge Seaford and Joseph Jacob Jewelers.
The casino hopes to partner with some shops on promotions and freebies. One idea?
"If you book your wedding here, we'll get you diamond rings over at the mall," Sullivan said.
Could a casino be coming to your mall? Not likely, unless state law changes.
Only five Category IV casinos like the one at Westmoreland Mall are permitted, and the Gaming Board has already approved three, with others in State College and Shippensport awaiting Board approval.
for more features.