Saturday, June 18, 2011
AUSTINTOWN PROSPECTS FOR RACETRACK IMPROVE
By David Skolnick
A casino deal reached with Penn National Gaming Inc. will help the company meet another goal: relocating two horse-racing gaming licenses, including one to Austintown.
“We’ve made our intentions very clear in terms of relocating” to the Mahoning Valley, said Bob Tenenbaum, a Penn National spokesman.
Gov. John Kasich announced that Penn National came to an agreement Friday to pay an additional $110 million in fees to the state over a 10-year period for casinos it’s building in Columbus and Toledo.
It’s similar to a deal announced Wednesday between the state and Rock Ohio Caesars, the company building casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Penn National wants to relocate its horse-racing gaming license from Raceway Park, a harness track in Toledo, to a $200 million facility to be built in Austintown at the vacant 186-acre Centerpointe business park, and move Beulah Park in Grove City, near Columbus, to the Dayton area.
Those relocations were contingent on the state’s allowing slot machines — called video lottery terminals or VLTs — at the state’s seven horse racetracks.
Kasich approved VLTs at the racetracks as part of the casino deals.
“We intend to actively participate in the legislative discussion on VLTs and relocation,” Tenenbaum said. “Our goal is to fulfil our desire to relocate those tracks.”
Penn National had the deal in place a few days ago, but backed away at the last minute. It accepted the same proposal offered by Kasich on Friday.
State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, said Friday’s casino deal makes it easier to get the racetrack relocated to Austintown.
“There’s a real opportunity for the Mahoning Valley and Austintown, in particular, to see a track because of the casino agreement,” Gerberry said. “I’m hopeful this works out.”
Kasich took to task those who questioned why he pushed for more money from Penn National and ROC.
“I know that many thought it was futile to push the gaming companies for a better deal, but the governor’s job isn’t just to enforce laws; it’s also to make sure they benefit Ohioans in the greatest possible way,” he said. “This agreement does that and also provides the casinos a more-predictable set of rules so they can be more successful.”