New Castle News

October 16, 2013

Endeka answers Presque Isle petition

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Endeka Entertainment has asked the state to dismiss an Erie racetrack/casino’s request to scratch Lawrence Downs’ license.

In asking the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission to “dismiss as moot” the petition by Presque Isle Downs Inc., attorney James Doherty III of Scranton, representing Endeka, also asks the commission to admonish the Erie racetrack’s counsel and “grant such other and further relief as the commission in its discretion may deem appropriate.”

The commission is expected to act on Presque Isle’s petition when it meets Friday.

Last month, attorney Frederick Santarelli of Blue Bell, Pa., representing Presque Isle Downs, asked the harness racing commission to revoke the conditional license awarded to Endeka for Lawrence Downs Casino and Racetrack planned for Mahoning Township, and refuse to grant a final license for the proposed local racetrack and casino.

On July 12, 2012, the commission granted Philadelphia-based Endeka a license for harness racing and pari-mutuel wagering and to operate a mile-long harness racetrack.

The commission had awarded predecessors American Harness Tracks of Pittsburgh a racing license for the same site in November 2011, and Centaur Gaming of Indianapolis in September 2007. Presque Isle’s owners, MTR Gaming Group of West Virginia, made no complaint and did not seek to intervene on those occasions.

Attorneys for Presque Isle said the petition was filed at this time because when the Lawrence County site was initially approved “there was no real competition from Ohio.”

Santarelli claims circumstances have “changed substantially” and other casinos may be hurt financially if a new one is created.

The petition also questions the legality of the unprecedented action by Lawrence County government to back the project with a $50 million bond issue to be repaid with gaming revenues.

Earlier this year, Endeka partnered with Penn National Gaming to build and manage a multimillion-dollar facility in Lawrence County. Penn National also will own and operate Mahoning Valley Race Course, a thoroughbred racetrack with a 1,000 video lottery terminals now under construction in Austintown.

Doherty said Presque Isle “is trying to intervene after the fact.”

He noted the petition “is filed six years after the conclusion of the license application and years after the conclusion of most of the other proceedings.”

“It is particularly curious,” Doherty notes, that Presque Isle, a thoroughbred racing license holder, “is instructing the commission on the best interests of harness racing.”

Noting the petition “is rife with mischaracterizations and misstatements,” Doherty said Endeka was awarded a license — not a conditional license — and Presque Isle’s arguments are based on regulations of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board — not the harness racing commission.

He added Presque Isle — “seeking to undo an outcome” — has no standing to intervene and said the commission need not address issues and arguments raised.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)