New Castle News

May 3, 2013

Local officials keep hope alive for track

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Penn National Gaming’s plans to proceed with an Austintown racetrack has not killed hopes for a Lawrence County track/casino.

“We’re still in a holding pattern,” state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. said.

He noted the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission has given Endeka Entertainment an extension to May 31 to find the financing. “If they find the financing, we can expect to see our project move ahead.”

This week’s approval by the Ohio Racing Commission of Penn National’s plans to relocate two tracks has made local officials more determined to see the $150 million local project proposed by Philadelphia-based Endeka Entertainment for Mahoning Township. Endeka took over the project last year.

Noting it has been “on hold” for the past six years, Vogel said the local project would prove to be superior, if completed.

“If they get the financing ... we will have live table games, which is what people want. Penn National has yet to get permission for video display terminals in Ohio, which no one really wants.”

Even if Penn National breaks ground first, he said, “it will take 12 to 18 months to get a casino up and running. We could see that part of the project opening about the same time as theirs.”

Delays “have been very frustrating,” Vogel said, referring to the decade-long process. “Everyone keeps waiting for something to happen and nothing does.”

“It was not surprising that Penn National got the Ohio Racing Commission OK,” state Rep. Chris Sainato said. “We want to see something happening with ours. What happens in Ohio will not affect us.”

Sainato said a full-scale casino, as planned for Mahoning Township, offers a more attractive gaming destination than the Austintown facility, which will provide only video slot terminals.

Such a casino “can co-exist in this market. There is still a lot of potential.

“We can’t focus on what is going on in Ohio,” Sainato continued. “We must focus on what is going on here.”

By the May 31 deadline, Endeka must provide the harness commission with proof it has sufficient funds to construct a $170 million racetrack/casino, a contract with a management company to operate it, an agreement with a horsemen’s association and an application submitted to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a casino license.

“I can’t wait until I hear that the application is before the gaming board,” Sainato said. “That will mean that the $50 million fee has been put down and we’re on our way.”

He noted a local partner, Chuck Long, has said he wants to see the project done right.

“That’s what we all want to see,” he said. “We believe that the people involved know what they’re doing.”

Thursday morning, Long said he could not comment.

“We’re still better located,” Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler said. “We have more to offer as a one-mile track and with table games.”

Vogler said the nearness of the Austintown facility to the proposed Mahoning track/casino should not derail the local project.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania has two casinos within 25 miles of each other — The Rivers and The Meadows. Both are thriving. There is no reason to believe that will not be the case here.”





Slots money coming! How much will you get?



If you own a home in New Castle you’ll get an estimated $224 in property tax relief next year.

The amount comes courtesy of state proceeds from slot machine gambling at Pennsylvania casinos.

By contrast, homeowners in Neshannock Township will receive an estimated $68.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education Thursday released estimates of next year’s reductions for most of the 500 school districts under the homestead and farmstead exclusion program.

More than 2.5 million Pennsylvania homeowners will share nearly $612 million in property and wage tax reductions thanks to slot-machine gambling.

The amount property owners receive depends on the school district where they live.

According to the education department, the biggest winners include Chester-Upland School District, where reductions of $641 per homeowner are anticipated, and the Allentown and York districts, where reductions of more than $500 are expected.

Under the program, the assessed value of the participating homesteads in each district is reduced by an equal amount, cutting the tax. Philadelphia homeowners receive city wage tax reductions instead.

Homeowners have until March 1 every year to qualify for reductions in the following year.

Following is the data for the school districts in Lawrence County:

Ellwood City

Total property tax reduction — $690,540

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 3,941

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $175

Laurel

Total property tax reduction — $365,509

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 2,256

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $162

Mohawk

Total property tax reduction — $482,957

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 2,984

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $162

Neshannock

Total property tax reduction — $196,037

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 2,886

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $68

New Castle

Total property tax reduction — $1,184,855

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 5,300

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $224

Shenango

Total property tax reduction — $459,280

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 2,397

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $192

Union

Total property tax reduction — $251,603

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 1,620

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $155

Wilmington

Total property tax reduction — $381,102

Number of homesteads and farmsteads — 2,590

Estimated tax relief per homestead or farmstead — $147

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)