New Castle News

July 3, 2012

Penn National files for license, move

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Penn National Gaming is getting closer to video slot machine operations at its Ohio racetracks.

The Pennsylvania-based company formally filed with the Ohio Lottery Commission to obtain video lottery terminal sales agent licenses for its racetracks. Also Saturday, it filed with the Ohio Racing Commission for authorization to relocate tracks from Columbus and Toledo to Austintown and Dayton.

“These are the licenses to operate the slots,” Penn National Ohio spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said.

Since the dismissal of a lawsuit by The Ohio Roundtable, he said, all seven existing racetracks in Ohio may apply for slots at their locations.

The suit raised constitutional challenges, claiming Ohio Gov. John Kasich and legislators ignored the voters’ wishes when the governor signed an executive order establishing rules by which the lottery commission may place terminals.

The Roundtable has filed notice it plans to appeal, but has not yet done so, Tenenbaum said.

Penn National is hopeful Ohio regulators will act quickly on the requests, he added, so groundbreaking can take place in the fall.

Tenenbaum said he does not know what timeline is in place, adding the Ohio Racing Commission meets July 19, but doesn’t know if Penn National is on the agenda.

If approved, the Austintown and Dayton facilities will be Penn National’s third and fourth in Ohio. Its $320 million Hollywood Casino Toledo opened May 29, and construction is near completion on a $400 million Hollywood Casino in Columbus. A fall opening is being planned. The racetracks are being relocated so not to compete with the casinos in Toledo and Columbus.

Earlier this year, Penn National announced plans to relocate a thoroughbred racetrack from Columbus to Austintown and a harness track from Toledo to Dayton — providing Ohio officials allow video lottery machines at the new locations. Plans call for 1,500 per facility.

In a statement issued Monday, Tim Wilmott, Penn National president and chief operations officer, said the weekend filings are “another major step forward for these two significant economic development projects.”

Under terms of a memorandum of understanding with the office of the governor, Penn National will pay a $75 million relocation fee for each track and another $50 million video lottery terminal license fee per track. These fees will be paid “over time,” according to Penn National’s statement.

The company anticipates investing $125 million to construct the facilities, which it said will feature bars and restaurants, generate 1,000 construction jobs and provide 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Beulah Park in Columbus will continue to operate until the anticipated opening date of the Austintown facility in 2014.

To be called Hollywood Slots and Mahoning Valley Race Course, it will be on 184 acres in the Centerpointe Business Park near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Ohio 46.

Penn National owns or operates 27 gaming and racing facilities in 18 states and Canada.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)