By Marc Kovac
The state racing commission approved racing dates Thursday for the new racino being built in Austintown, with horses set to run in late November.
The permit was needed by Penn National Gaming to pursue a separate approval from state lottery officials to offer video slots at the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
“It’s been a very interesting road,” commission Chairman Robert Schmitz said after the vote, which capped months of debate over the number of horse stalls at the site.
Penn National will host more than 20 live racing days this year at the new racino, starting Nov. 24.
The company plans to offer about 100 racing days in 2015 and is working with Thistledown, a thoroughbred track in the Cleveland area, to ensure there’s no overlap with race dates.
Earlier this month, Penn National and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association announced they had signed an agreement that calls for close to 1,000 horse stalls in Austintown.
Penn National initially planned about 760 stalls at the track, but the racing commission said that number was not adequate to accommodate races. Commission members delayed a vote on Penn’s racing dates until after the issue was addressed.
Bob Tenenbaum, a spokesman for Penn National, said the company next will pursue the required approvals from the state lottery commission to offer video-lottery terminals in Austintown. That process likely will take a couple of months.
Penn National is midway through construction at the new racino, with plans for video-slots gaming to open for business in the fall.
Racing commission member Mark Munroe, who also heads the Mahoning County Republican Party, said he visited the track earlier this week.
“It’s looking good,” he said. “Penn National, you’re doing a great job out there. I can confirm that the community is anxiously awaiting the openings.”