By jeanne starmack
new castle, pa.
They’re not exactly neck and neck.
A proposed thoroughbred racetrack and casino, or racino, for Austintown has pulled out ahead of a proposed racino in Lawrence County, Pa., in terms of which will be built first.
The Austintown track, to be built on 184 acres at Centerpointe Business Park, is almost a certainty for a groundbreaking in October, said Austintown Trustees Chairman Dave Ditzler.
The Mahoning Township, Lawrence County, racino is still in the licensing process, said Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler.
For revenue and jobs, both communities are looking forward to boom times.
In competition for clientele, Ditzler said he believes the Austintown racino will have the edge.
Penn National Gaming is the company that will build in Austintown. That project will relocate a racetrack from Columbus to Centerpointe. It also will include 1,500 video lottery terminals, or VLTs.
“When you talk about people and companies that have the financial ability to do it, I don’t think that anything they build in [Lawrence County] would mirror it,” Ditzler said.
He also pointed out that the track, which will be called the Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course, is more accessible. The business park is near the intersection of state Route 46 and Interstate 80.
Vogler said the racinos’ proximity to each other will “make for a competitive situation.”
But, he said, there would be some important differences between the two establishments.
The Lawrence County racino, called Valley View Downs and developed by a company called American Harness Tracks, would have table games, which aren’t legal in Ohio, he said. He also said there would be two types of racing: harness vs. thoroughbred.
Ditzler said there may be a need for an increase in police and fire services because of the racinos, though he does not believe people will drive back and forth from one to the other.
He said Penn National Gaming has described the type of clientele it attracts as “women between ages 50 and 55, who stay three hours and spend $80.”
“I don’t see a need to hire more safety forces now,” he said. “We’ll assess as it goes along.”
He also said Penn National Gaming has agreed to provide $500,000 annually to the township, which would be used at Austintown’s discretion.
Ditzler pointed out the entire Mahoning Valley will see a trickle-down effect from the racino.
Campbell, for example, could benefit from its location between the proposed sites in Lawrence County and Austintown, said Campbell Mayor Bill VanSuch.
VanSuch pointed out that if racino workers move in to Campbell, the city would benefit from the additional income tax revenue.
He also said city businesses could benefit.
He said he believes Campbell could attract new residents because of decent homes available and low property taxes.