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Developer: Racetrack in Valley is sure bet

Published: Mon, January 17, 2011 @ 12:11 a.m.


State Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Liberty)


Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams


Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally

Project will proceed with or without slots, Clevelander asserts

By Ed Runyan



A proposal unveiled Saturday to build a $300 million racetrack, resort and casino at an undisclosed Mahoning Valley location may sound as if it has many obstacles to overcome, but one of its developers vowed Sunday that “it’s going to happen.”

Rick Lertzman, a principal in the Mahoning Valley Development Group, said the Mahoning Valley Downs and Resort will be built on 200 acres and have a thoroughbred racetrack, hotel, golf course, shopping, dining and entertainment. More details — including its location in the Valley — will be announced at a Tuesday morning press conference, he said.

The resort also will have a casino, even though Ohio law doesn’t allow slot machines in the Mahoning Valley, Lertzman said.

“This will go forward with or without video lottery terminals (VLT’s),” Lertzman said of the terminology used in Ohio that means slot machines.

Furthermore, a casino will be part of the project because the state will eventually legalize slots at racetracks, Lertzman said.

They are already legal in West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania, so as a “financial matter,” it’s only a matter of time before Ohio makes them legal as well, he said.

A resort will be successful here, Lertzman said, because there are 800,000 to 1 million people in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and many more people travel through the region on highways.

Ohio’s new governor, John Kasich, has not stated his position on slot machines but said he doesn’t believe Ohio got a fair shake when it approved four Las Vegas-style casinos in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati in 2009.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland’s 2009 attempt to allow slot machines at Ohio racetracks to boost state revenue met with legal challenges, but Lertzman said he thinks the proposal is coming back around because the state is facing an $8 billion to $10 billion budget deficit.

State Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, said there are a “lot of complications” with racetracks getting permission to operate slot machines but agrees with Lertzman that “because of budget issues that [slot machines] will be back on the table” in the Ohio Legislature in the coming months.

She also didn’t rule out that a ballot issue will result from the idea.

One reason slots might have a chance is because voters approved the four casinos in 2009, Cafaro said. “The state of Ohio has spoken officially in favor of casinos,” she said.

As for the idea of building a resort in the Mahoning Valley, Cafaro said, “We’re certainly looking forward to any opportunity to bring jobs into the state.”

Lertzman said he and fellow Clevelander Bradford Pressman, a retired podiatrist, were proponents in 1996 of a failed attempt to legalize riverboat gambling in Ohio.

They were also part of the failed 2006 attempt to authorize the building of one privately owned resort/casino near Wilmington, Ohio, between Columbus and Cincinnati.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said he was not “initially aware” of the Mahoning Valley Downs and Resort proposal when he read about it in Sunday’s Vindicator.

He was opposed to the ballot measure that allowed four casinos in Ohio in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati in 2009. Now, however, he said that if Ohio is “going to be in the gambling business,” then it should be in all parts of the state.

“We’re always interested in bringing development to the Mahoning Valley,” he said, adding “We’re always willing to sit down and have a discussion.”

Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel added, “We certainly welcome any type of investment to develop the area. Other than that, I need to know more information,” he said.

Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV said, “I don’t think anyone would be unhappy with that type of project, but until [the developers] talk to a city or township or wherever it’s being proposed, it’s up in the air.” He added Sunday nightthat he, too, knew nothing about the project until he read about it Sunday in The Vindicator.

The project should generate more than 1,000 construction jobs and 1,500 to 2,000 permanent jobs, the developer said. It would be the state’s eighth racetrack.

There are 40,000 jobs connected to the state’s racing industry, he pointed out. Lertzman said the development group plans to apply for a license from the state racing commission within two months.


1valleyred(1103 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Marcus, all you do is post on Vindy.com all day and BASH Youngstown. Can't you find something better to do?

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2StaceyL(1 comment)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

I am not a fan of the race track coming. Strip clubs and crime will soon be joining the area as well. The area around Casinos are never pretty!

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3sparky22(14 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

I see the mayor is really invested in bringing business into the area, being he didn't even know about the proposal to begin with. Good job on keeping up to date on things, Mr. Mayor.

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

Gambling is in trouble in PA. Over saturation ?Plus it tends to bring more unsavory folks around and we have enough of them already.

Casinos are one of the greediest of industries as they ensure that only the smallest crumbs of necessity falls from their table.

We need real jobs not more service related non production thievery.If you win big in Vegas they sweat you, that speaks volumes.

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

A relaxing day at the track . . ..



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6Bigben(1996 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

"In 1983 the Thoroughbred track, the state's largest, attracted 895,689 customers who wagered $114.8 million on the races, but the track lost nearly $1 million. The state legislature gave the racing industry a $12.4 million annual tax break in 1984."- - - - - - -Again speaks volumes.Only they are counting on slots too this time.

Race tracks are nothing new, Boardman had racing way back when it was rural and folks from YTown would venture out.Wonder why it isn't still there?

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7DOLE2(595 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

After my unemployment runs out,I'm going right down to valley downs and spend my life savings....

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8arteesto(22 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

In 2009, 4 CASINOS were voted on and approved by the people of Ohio for Casino development in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. To date, construction has not begun on any of them.
The people of Columbus do not want a casino in Columbus, so the license to build a casino in Columbus can be transfered to Youngstown. A matter of formality by the Ohio Attorney General.
The developers behind the proposal of a race track/slots etc. in Youngstown will encounter many road blocks and it will end up that a resolution initiative will have to be put on this Novembers state wide ballot and voted on and passed by the people of Ohio.
Take the SURE FIRE WAY INITIATIVE to get a casino plus in Youngstown Rick Lertzman.
Contact the Columbus developers who have the license to build a casino in Columbus to bring their Casino development license to Youngstown and be a part of your initiative...Then you can say...IT WILL BE A SURE BET TO GET A CASINO IN YOUNGSTOWN...GUARANTEED!

Pat M....Casino Guy

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