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July 4, 2013

Ohio track not competition concern, developers say

NEW CASTLE — Developers of Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort are not concerned about competition from their Austintown, Ohio, casino project.

Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler said that Penn National officials also hope to obtain a gaming license by the first quarter of 2014 and are solidly committed to the project.

Vogler met with Peter Carline, Penn National’s chief executive officer, and company vice presidents Steven Snyder and Eric Schippers last week at their corporate headquarters in Wyomissing, Berks County.

Vogler said he had asked for the meeting because he was in the eastern part of the state for Pennsylvania Harness Racing and Gaming Commission meetings Wednesday and Friday last week. He said he met with the vice presidents, then with Carline, for a total of about three hours.

He said they told him they do not view their Austintown development as a competitive threat to the development of the track and casino in Mahoning Township. While Penn National has broken ground for a thoroughbred racetrack in Austintown, Ohio, about 20 miles away, the officials said they plan to market the Pennsylvania development mainly to Beaver and Butler counties and the North Hills of Pittsburgh, not to Ohio.

Vogler pointed out several other reasons the Lawrence County project has an advantage over the Ohio development, including the fact the Lawrence County site will have table games, which the Austintown facility does not, and will have harness racing instead of thoroughbred racing.

Another advantage, Vogler said, is that the local development would allow smoking in designated areas, while Ohio law prohibits any smoking in such a facility.

Vogler added the distance between the Ohio development and the proposed Lawrence County site is about the same as between the Pittsburgh area’s  Meadows and Rivers casinos, which are both thriving.

The three company officials expressed their commitment to the Lawrence County project, Vogler said, adding he also pledged the commissioners’ cooperation and assistance. An application for a gaming license for Lawrence Downs is before the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission and a local public hearing must be conducted prior to action on the application.

Penn National, which owns 30 percent of the Lawrence County proposed development and will manage it, also owns a casino in Dauphin County, Pa. Endeka Entertainment is the other partner in Lawrence Downs.

The Lawrence County commissioners will be floating a $50 million bond for the project, which they will pay back with the county’s share of revenues from the racetrack.


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