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June 29, 2012

New partnership may boost local track/casino

NEW CASTLE — New financial partners may reinvigorated Lawrence County’s harness track and casino project.

However, the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission must bless the union between American Harness Tracks and its new financial backers before an application for a casino license can be submitted to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

“We’ll be doing that as soon as possible,” American Harness board chairman Chuck Long said Thursday. “We are aggressively pursuing all regulations and requirements to meet that goal.”

A New Castle resident, Long said he is not concerned by an announcement last week that Penn National Gaming officials plan to break ground this year for a thoroughbred racetrack and slots parlor in Austintown, Ohio, and anticipate full operation by 2014.

Although he would not estimate a ground-breaking date or even when application will be made to the gaming board, Long said, “The reality of the situation is this: We believe in our project and have great confidence in our ability to compete.”

Long and his partners will go forward “a step at a time,” he added.

The announcement of new money partners was made Thursday at the monthly meeting of the harness racing commission at Mohegan Sun at the Pocono Downs racetrack/casino.

Solicitor James Doherty said American Harness has entered a new partnership with investors known as Endeka Entertainment.

The three main principles, all from the Philadelphia area, are Edward Snider, chief executive officer of Comcast; Peter DePaul of the DePaul Group, which is involved in construction and property management; and Manuel “Manny” Stamatakis, an insurance executive.

Stamatakis had been an investor in the Foxwoods Casino project, a proposed stand-alone casino for Philadelphia. The project was opposed by local residents and the gaming control board revoked the license last year.

Long said information about the new partners must be submitted to the harness board for approval.

He said plans are still being finalized for the harness racetrack and casino intended for Mahoning Township off Route 422 at Baird Road.

When the harness commission approved American Harness Tracks for the state’s final racing license last fall, Long noted, the organization agreed to invest “$150 million at minimum” to construct a facility.

“I expect we will exceed that minimum investment requirement.”

Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said Doherty “expects American Harness — with its new partners — to move ahead quickly and create a marquee destination for entertainment in Lawrence County.”

The next meeting of the harness commission will be July 27 at The Meadows in Washington County.

Vogler said the commission members accepted Doherty’s report without comment, but added that prior to Thursday’s meeting, Long met in executive session with them.


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