Penn National now involved in New Castle

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – A Philadelphia firm has been given until May 31 to put together financing for a harness racetrack in western Pennsylvania, thanks to ongoing talks with the company planning to build a thoroughbred track in Austintown.

Endeka Entertainment’s talks with Penn National Gaming, which may operate or buy part of the proposed New Castle-area track, were cited in Thursday’s decision by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission to give Endeka more time to finance the planned racetrack and casino in Mahoning Township, about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and about 20 miles east of Austintown.

Penn National has been meeting with the Ohio Race Commission, hoping to work out issues involving seating arrangements proposed for the Austintown Track.

When asked Friday if the potential involvement in the New Castle track has any connection to ongoing debate over the Austintown track, company spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said the company remains “completely committed” to the Austintown project.

“We … are planning to move full steam ahead once we obtain the approval of the Ohio State Racing Commission. As it relates to Valley View Downs, that is entirely speculative at this point, and as a policy, we don’t comment on ongoing discussions or potential business opportunities,” Tenenbaum said.

Penn National, based in Reading, operates racetracks across the country. Penn National has previously announced plans to transfer an Ohio racing license so it can build a track and a video lottery facility by 2014 in Austintown.

Company officials are scheduled to return next week to the Ohio Race Commission in Columbus to meet again about seating proposals for audience viewing of live thoroughbred racing. If the race commission is satisfied, members could vote at that time on Penn National’s request to transfer its license from the Beulah Park track in Columbus to Austintown.