Lawrence officials: Casino pieces are falling into place

By Mary Grzebieniak


Last Thursday was “a very good day for us down in Harrisburg,” said Lawrence County Commissioner Steve Craig.

All three commissioners were upbeat at their Tuesday meeting as they talked about recent developments after the bankruptcy sale of the proposed Valley View Downs racetrack and casino project in Mahoning Township.

Last Thursday they attended the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission meeting. The commission will determine whether Valley View Downs’ new owner, American Harness Tracks LLC, will be given a transfer of the harness racing license, a necessary next step to keep the project alive.

The commissioners heard Joe DeRosa of Centaur, the parent company of Valley View Downs, state that American Harness Tracks is expected to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to file a preliminary application for the harness racing license. Commissioner Richard DeBlasio said, “I came out of there feeling positive.”

Commissioners also are heartened because of the recent involvement in the project of New Castle native Joseph Canfora, whose late father owned New Castle Fruit and Produce and who still has relatives in the area.

Canfora’s Merit Management Group out of Chicago is negotiating with American Harness Tracks to try and develop the project in Lawrence County. Commissioner Dan Vogler cautioned that the negotiations are ongoing and the two parties have not reached an agreement, but said he is hopeful.

“In many ways the pieces of the puzzle are falling together for us,” Craig added. “We are working every single part of this as hard as we can in every way we know.”

Craig pointed out that the relationships that Commissioner Dan Vogler has developed by regularly attending the Harness Racing and Pennsylvania Gaming Commission meetings are now proving invaluable. He pointed out, for example, that while in Harrisburg, Vogler talked with a member of Gov.-elect Tom Corbett’s transition team, a connection Vogler would not have had if he had not made the regular trips to Harrisburg.

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