Company awaits decision on license

By Mary Grzebieniak


It will be several months before American Harness Tracks LLC of Pittsburgh learns whether it will be awarded the harness- racing license held by Valley View Downs for the racetrack/casino property American Harness bought at a bankruptcy sale in December.

Last week, the company filed a preliminary application to transfer the harness-racing license held by Valley View Downs for the property, off U.S. Route 422 in Mahoning Township

Transfer of the harness- racing license is necessary for the company to proceed with plans for the development, which is to include a harness-racing track and casino. In addition to the harness-racing license, American Harness Tracks also will need to obtain a casino license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission to bring the project to completion.

Nicole Bucher, acting press secretary at the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission, said Tuesday that the application will be reviewed, a process she said will take several months, before the commission decides whether to transfer Valley View Downs’ partnership interest to American Harness Tracks. She said this review includes background and financial investigations.

American Harness Tracks is headed by Atty. Charles Knoll Jr., son of the late Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. The company bid $5.6 million for the “racino” project. It is negotiating with Merit Management Group of Chicago with an eye to forming a partnership to develop the racetrack.

At the Lawrence County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Dan Vogler lauded the filing of the application as “a step in the right direction.” Commissioner Richard DeBlasio added that commissioners “will be in close contact with our legislators constantly” to try to thwart any attempt by legislators from other areas to try to get the project moved out of Lawrence County. DeBlasio said it is a plus for Lawrence County that its two state senators, Bob Robbins and Elder Vogel, are Republicans because the Pennsylvania Senate has a Republican majority and is unlikely to allow such a move against this area.

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