Racetrack compromise proposed

AUSTINTOWN – A compromise offered by the company wanting to build a racetrack and casino here may be the first step in working out a dispute with the Ohio State Race Commission over the number of spectator seats.

Penn National Gaming Inc. offered a written compromise this week in which the company would promise to meet the commission’s requested seating requirements if certain “verifiable criteria supporting the need for more seating are met.”

Under the agreement, Penn National would proceed with development and open under the proposed number of seats, but would promise to increase the seating capacity after one year based on attendance figures.

Work at proposed Penn National racetracks in Austintown and Dayton is halted with about $19 million already invested in the two facilities because the Ohio Race Commission has refused to grant a license transfer based on what it believes is an inadequate number of spectator seats at both locations.

In Austintown, Penn National has proposed about 500 indoor seats, but the Race Commission has demanded about 650 more. Adding that many climate-controlled seats will mean reworking the architectural drawings and delays of four to six months and additional cost of about $5 million, said Penn National Gaming spokesman Bob Tenenbaum.

Penn National has said it plans to invest $250 million in each facility.

“Because Penn’s facility plan budget has already met the capital spend requirement of the Commission, and because the site remediation and preparation costs have been substantially over budget, the margin for error on these projects is razor thin.

Consequently, Penn simply cannot increase the budget any further, especially in view of the material relocation costs.”

A message left seeking comment for the commission chairman was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.