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June 1, 2013

Penn National bankrolls Lawrence County casino project

NEW CASTLE — The horses may be heading to the gate.

With a license to operate a harness racetrack in hand, Endeka Entertainment LP and Penn National Gaming Inc. have applied for the project’s long-awaited casino license.

Yesterday, the partners announced plans to develop Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort, a $158.5 million racetrack/casino facility in Mahoning Township. The announcement, 10 years in the making, comes one day after Penn National broke ground for a thoroughbred racetrack in Austintown, Ohio.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board received the casino license application late yesterday.

In a press release issued last night, Penn National said Lawrence Downs will feature a harness racing facility and a casino containing approximately 1,250 slot machines at opening with capacity for up to 1,500 machines, 40 live table games and 10 poker tables.

Penn National, the project developer and manager, will pay $66.5 million in fees, which include a $50 million license fee bond. The company will fund $15 million through a loan. Penn National also acquires the option to purchase a one-third ownership interest.

“We are particularly pleased to bring this economic development project to Lawrence County as it will generate a significant number of new local jobs and other benefits,” said Manuel Stamatakis, Endeka’s managing general partner, in the press release.

Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said the Mahoning Township site “does not lessen Penn National’s commitment to the Austintown facility.”

Ground was broken this week for a $125 million racetrack and video lottery terminal parlor located about 20 miles from the proposed Lawrence County location on Route 422 at Baird Road.

“Our belief was always that eventually the Lawrence County facility was going to be built,” he said. “It makes more sense for us to be involved (with the project) rather than compete.”

Tenenbaum said the two facilities no doubt will compete to some degree but there is opportunity for cooperation in a business sense.

The partnership also positions Penn National to compete with gaming facilities in Erie, Pittsburgh, Washington County and West Virginia.

Doug Harbach of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board confirmed the casino license application was received. An application review and background investigation will take place.

“We will also be gathering public input, seeking comments from citizens, officials and the community where the casino will be.”

This will include a public hearing in Mahoning Township. He added there is no timetable for competition.

“The investigation will take as long as it takes,” he said.

Lawrence County commissioner Dan Vogler said the conditions placed on Penn National and Endeka by the harness racing commission are being met.

“That seems to be sufficient at this time,” he said, adding, “I hope when the public hearing is held, the community turns out to show support.”

(Relive the magic of New Castle’s WPIAL championship basketball season by purchasing a collectible DVD or special section that was given out at the team’s banquet. Both were produced by the New Castle News. For more details, CLICK HERE.)


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