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March 2, 2014

Public hearing for casino could be in spring

NEW CASTLE — The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could turn its focus to Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort this spring.

Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler, who attended the board’s meeting in Harrisburg this week, said he and staff members informally discussed a timetable for the upcoming public hearing on the gaming application submitted by Endeka Entertainment. The board must approve the application prior to the opening of a casino planned for Mahoning Township.

Penn National Gaming, a partner in the project, anticipates opening Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown late this year. Ground was broken last May for the thoroughbred race track that will feature about 1,000 video lottery terminals.

While no date has yet been formally set, Vogler said, the board is looking at conducting the hearing in the spring, possibly in May.

“This is still very tentative and subject to change,” he said.

By law, a public hearing must take place within the borders of the host municipality to give residents the opportunity to speak out on the plans. A second hearing will be conducted in Harrisburg.

Vogler added that Endeka officials had told him the gaming board staff is continuing with the legally required background checks on Endeka Entertainment.

Vogler, who also attended the Pennsylvania Harness Commission’s meeting Thursday, noted that former commission chairman Roy Wilt has resigned.

“I hated to see him go,” Vogler said of the Mercer County resident. “Without Roy Wilt I am certain Lawrence County would not still be in the running for a harness track/casino.”

Vogler noted that Wilt supported the Lawrence County location for a harness track and encouraged others of the three-man commission to do so, “even though there was pressure to move it.”

Wilt served on the board for 18 years, most of them as chairman. It is up to the governor to appoint a replacement.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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