Pa. high court will hear local racing appeals


NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals filed by the chief competitor of a proposed Lawrence County harness racing track and the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission.

The court handed down two orders today.

Among the issues it will consider is whether the commission “exceeded its statutory powers, acted in an arbitrary and capricious fashion and violated a harness racing applicant’s due process rights by changing the manner in which the application would be evaluated.”

The high court will look at a policy statement and undisclosed preferences in circumstances “to see if the new procedure treated similarly situated, simultaneously pending applications differently,” the order says.

The court also will look at whether the commission failed to give Centaur, a company seeking to build Valley View Downs harness track in Beaver County, Pa., an opportunity to cure purported deficiencies and address previously undisclosed agency preferences.

“The Valley View Downs team welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to consider our appeal. We continue to be optimistic that Valley View Downs will become a reality. We look forward to presenting our case in court,” says a statement sent out by Valley View officials today.

Bedford Downs, the company owned by the Shick family here, proposed building a track off U.S. Route 422 in Mahoning Township. Valley View and Bedford Downs both were vying for the state’s last harness racing license when both were rejected by the harness racing commission in 2005.

The winner of the last license is almost assured a lucrative gaming license by the state gaming commission.

Both filed court appeals, and Bedford Downs ultimately prevailed in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, where judges ruled the harness racing commission abused its discretion in denying the license to the Shick family because of reported ties the family’s deceased grandfather may have had to Youngstown crime figure Lennie Strollo and others with organized crime ties.

The court also stated the commission erred when it questioned Bedford’s financing of the project.

Carmen Shick, family spokesman, said he had not seen the Supreme Court ruling, but added, “If we need to go to the Supreme Court and argue our case before the justices, so be it.”

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