Groups have completed ‘all-encompassing’ deal
By Marc Kovac
It’s not signed, sealed and delivered, but an agreement on the number of horse stalls at a new Austintown racino is nearly a done deal, with Penn National Gaming and a horsemen’s group in the process of signing the final paperwork.
The company, which will operate the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course beginning in the fall, and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have been haggling over the agreement for months.
On Thursday, representatives from the two groups told the Ohio Racing Commission they have completed an “all-encompassing” agreement that will cover various issues at the racino over the next decade.
“We’re doing some final cleanup language, and then it’s a matter of getting signatures on the document,” said Mark Loewe, Penn’s vice president of racing operations in Ohio.
The documents include plans for 988 horse stalls in 13 barns at the site.
That was welcome news to commission members, who balked at Penn’s initial plans for about 760 stalls, which the commission said was inadequate to accommodate horses.
Commission members have questioned Penn officials for months on the issue and delayed final approval of racing dates.
The latter permit is required for the gaming company to offer video lottery terminals at the site.
Penn already has begun construction of the Austintown facility, with plans for video slots gaming to open for business in the fall.
The company has submitted an application to offer live racing at the site starting in November.
Once the agreement between Penn and the horsemen’s association is signed, the racing commission will act on Penn’s racing permit.
Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis said “it is disheartening that the racing commission has continued to put hurdles in front of Penn National.”
“We have known all along that Penn National would work some kind of agreement,” Davis said. “We are elated to move forward and to continue to move forward to bring jobs to the Valley.”