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Toledo track owner eyes move to Valley

Published: Thu, February 3, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.




The owner of a Toledo horse racetrack will address the Ohio State Racing Commission next Thursday about relocating the facility to the Mahoning Valley.

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, told The Vindicator on Wednesday that Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Raceway Park in Toledo, will discuss the move with the commission.

The company wants to build the racetrack on the vacant Centerpointe location in Austintown, off state Route 46 just south of Interstate 80, Hagan and Schiavoni said.

Hagan and Schiavoni said they and other Valley-area state legislators were invited by Penn National to next week’s racing-commission meeting.

“I’m excited about the prospect of bringing 1,000 to 1,500 jobs and millions of dollars in investments to the Mahoning Valley,” Schiavoni said.

He added that Penn

National will “make this announcement next week and explain the project. This would be great for this area.”

Penn National would invest between $200 million and $250 million for this racetrack, Hagan said.

“This is no save-all, cure-all for the area, but it’s a great opportunity, and I’m very positive about it,” he said. “We’ll support it as much as we can.”

Penn National has been discussing the potential move for the past eight to 12 months with legislators, Hagan and Schiavoni said.

The most recent meeting was Monday.

Penn National officials met privately that day with local elected officeholders and representatives of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber to discuss relocating a track to Mahoning County.

Bob Tenenbaum, Penn National’s spokesman, declined to comment Wednesday.

“We’ve been consistent in not discussing the potential movement until we’re ready to make an announcement,” he said.

When asked when that announcement would be made, Tenenbaum said, “We’ll be ready in the near future.”

Penn National also owns Beulah Park, a thoroughbred racetrack in Grove City, near Columbus.

With Penn National building Las Vegas-style casinos near both facilities, the company is looking to move Raceway, a harness track, and Beulah, Tenenbaum has said.

The two Penn National tracks, as well as the five other horse tracks in Ohio, have seen their revenue steadily decline.

Tom Fries Jr., the racing commission’s executive director, said Penn National’s request to move is not on the agency’s agenda for next week.

“But that’s not to say they won’t bring that up under ‘new business,’” he said. “They’ve told us they were looking at the possibility” of moving.

“Penn told me they are looking at the economic viability, and they haven’t made any decisions,” Fries said. “The rest I read in The [Columbus] Dispatch and The Vindicator.”

To move from Toledo to this area, Penn National needs to apply to the commission to transfer the license.

The company also needs to obtain signatures from at least 51 percent of the total number of voters in the last general election from the township in which the racetrack would be located, Fries said.

In that election, 13,574 Austintown residents voted, according to the Mahoning County Board of Elections. That means Penn National would need 6,923 signatures from Austintown adults.

The move also would need to be approved by county commissioners, Fries said.

Austintown Trustee David Ditzler said Penn National has been eyeing the Centerpointe location for months, adding that spot is “on the top of their list.”

But he remains cautiously optimistic.

“We have a long, long road ahead with respect to getting the racing commission to approve the license move to the Valley,” Ditzler said.

A racetrack hasn’t relocated in Ohio in about 50 years, he said.

Meanwhile, officials with the racing commission will meet Feb. 16 with the Mahoning Valley Development Group, a separate group also looking to bring horse racing to Mahoning County.

“The only thing we’ve heard is they want to meet,” Fries said.

That company is proposing a $300 million complex in the Valley on as much as 700 acres that would include a thoroughbred horse racetrack, resort and possibly a casino with slot machines.

The company announced their plans in mid-January.

Currently, slot machines are illegal in Ohio with voters rejecting it several times. But Ohioans voted in 2009 in favor of opening four Las Vegas-style casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

There is talk of Gov. John Kasich’s considering a plan to include slot machines at the state’s racetracks. But when asked about it last week, Kasich declined to comment.

Legalizing slot machines would make a racetrack in Mahoning County more viable, Schiavoni said.


1Photoman(1065 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Something doesn't make sense here. The racetracks are losing money in their present locations so they want to move to this highly prosperous area where they can lose even more money----until slots are approved. But the slots haven't been approved yet so they're just taking a chance and are willing to invest 300 million. Do you get the feeling that there is a lot hidden from the public in these dealings?

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Better than nothing. Hope it doesnt take 100 years to get done though.

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3valleyred(1102 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

How about that. When looking at sites for a potential casino, this location in Austintown was at the top of my list. Perfect location on busy I-80 anr Rt. 11. Great spot of land, would love to see one there!

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4candystriper(575 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Pre recession employment will not return to Toledo until 2025...the city recently lost 43,000 jobs.

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5JME(801 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Hit the Track then head over to Club 76.

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6block50(128 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Is this our future? Bringing in a track and gaming facility to soak the suckers? Moral questions aside, I wonder if this is the kind of foundation our economy should be re-built upon. Just feels creepy to me.

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7JJ(28 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

A state that turns to gambling for economic development is a state out of ideas. With that said a check out what they did in Cincinnati, building an aquarium along with shopping, etc. This destination was bleak but now booming with families during the day and nightlife for adults. Embrace the fact that Youngstown is now a suburb of Pittsburgh!

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8Redline29er(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Great location,You can run shuttle buses to the truck stops. It would create jobs and help the community.
But only if you can have slots. Just a track would not do anything.

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9JME(801 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

JJ, that is a nice development in Newport, KY, but it probably helped that there are two professional sports teams that play right across the river.

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10reliableinfo(5 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

For those who think something is fishy, just remember this: the track won't move unless and until the slots proposal is approved. No slots, no track. It's as simple as that.

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11southsidedave(5072 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Race tracks, gambling casinos....hmmm now get a strip club!

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12commyliberal(94 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I lived outside of Charles Town WV where there was a thoroughbred race track & slots were added in late 1990's. Track was in the red till slots came in and helped the bottom line.

In terms of location for the gambling it is a good spot. I am not crazy about having it in the community but I can say I didn't notice it affecting the local community much in Charles Town. Mostly people travel to gamble & then leave.

Bottom line is there has to be slots & such or track isn't going to be able to stand alone. Our new Governor will prolly put slots through without blinking an eye. Then it is up to the community to agree to having it here.

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13walter_sobchak(2173 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Slot machines and video gaming must be added to all race tracks in Ohio or they will not survive.The tracks must be able to compete with other states that have the racing subsidized by the machines. This way, race purses can be increased and better breeders and trainers will stay or locate in Ohio. When these machines are put into the tracks, the tracks will have to relocated so as not to conflict with the casino business. This is a no brainer. Add the machine gaming and move the tracks. Just don't use my tax dollars to do this.

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14Owlguin(49 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree this isn't passing the sniff test. I would like to know the motivation for moving.

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151970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Photoman (164 comments) posted 7 hours, 48 minutes ago

Something doesn't make sense here. The racetracks are losing money in their present locations so they want to move to this highly prosperous area where they can lose even more money----until slots are approved. But the slots haven't been approved yet so they're just taking a chance and are willing to invest 300 million. Do you get the feeling that there is a lot hidden from the public in these dealings?


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16reliableinfo(5 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Look, this is pretty simple and not at all nefarious. First, Penn National wants to move the track from Toledo because they do not want to compete with themselves--they hold the Toledo casino license. It makes perfect sense for them to move the track to a location where they will attract additional dollars rather than splitting the same pot of money.

Second, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO MOVE THE TRACK OR INVEST 30 CENTS UNLESS AND UNTIL THE SLOTS PROPOSAL IS APPROVED. Even if the Racing Commission approves their request to move, they won't do it--and they won't have to--if they are not permitted to install slots.

That's all there is to it and it really is fairly straightforward.

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17ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Bet on horses? Sorry, I'm under 60 years old.

I wish there was something, anything in this area to give a 24-year-old hope. Oh well, Pittsburgh isn't too far away.

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18VINDYAK(1812 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I went out to the barn and had a talk with my wife's horse. He said he doesn't like the move as it will raise the price of his hay.

I'm still on the fence on this one, but I would like to think this is progressive.

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19mrblue(1136 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm not real sure about the idea. How many politicians will have their hands out before this can become a reality?

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20redvert(2162 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I understand that they say they will provide the money to build the complex. Now, exactly how do they plan to get into our pockets because rest assured they do have a plan.

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21Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

It is not logical and does indeed stink.
They are going to bring a track here which isn't cheap and then get slots and move the track? Sounds insane .

How long would they need to recoup the losses for the building and then moving the track. Someone is smoking a rather strong version of a certain forbidden herb.

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22Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Maybe they can be bailed out with past and soon to be stolen pension funds ?

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23Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

It would be more profitable for our area and healthier to either leave the land as it is or grow organic food on it. At least that is something needed productive and tangible. But these crazy schemes will never benefit us.

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24candystriper(575 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Penn had a investor conference call today that mentioned Columbus and Toledo opening in 2012...they bought the debt on the M Hotel in Las Vegas...some analyst think they have spent enough ... $100 million in Ohio alone

ticker symbol PENN

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