Racino up for review

AUSTINTOWN – It’s not just the 1,000 direct jobs estimated for the Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course that has Austintown trustee Jim Davis excited.

“Right now we are excited to build two new hotels,” Davis said Monday in advance of this morning’s hearing before the Ohio State Racing Commission. Davis is making the trip to Columbus to try to impress on the board what the racetrack will mean for the local economy.

The board is hearing arguments about whether they should permit Penn National and Gaming Co. to move the license for a thoroughbred racetrack from Beulah Park in Columbus to the 184-acre site that is being cleared now in Austintown.

Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said he does not expect a vote to come today, but no vote could come soon enough for Austintown’s Davis.

Monday he expressed frustration at the time that has passed in the planning of the track.

“To us it seems as if it’s slow because of the excitement level, I guess,” Davis said.

He noted that because the license move was not approved before the end of 2012, he worries whether the township is still in line for a $1 million impact fee that was due to the township by Dec. 31. A second $1 million fee is due to the township by the end of 2013, but both fees are contingent on the race commission’s approval. The funds would come out of Penn National’s $75 million relocation fee.

Davis said plans by two township hotels to each build a new hotel also are on hold until the race commission gives its blessing to the Austintown location.

Davis declined to identify the hotels and the size of the new hotels.

Tenenbaum said he is confident approval will come eventually.

”While getting approval is extremely important because we can’t move without it, we are very hopeful that this can get done in a reasonably short period of time,” Tenenbaum said.

Once the race commission acts, the state Lottery Commission will consider whether to approve Penn National’s request for video lottery terminals at the site.

Also expected to be on the table today is discussion about the number of audience seats proposed for the racetrack area.

Davis said the plans call for only 220 seats, compared to the 4,700 seats at Beulah Park. He did not express concern at the limited seating, noting that more seats can always be added as needed.

Tenenbaum declined to comment on the matter, but said the issue will be addressed with the commission at today’s hearing.

Site preparation work is continuing on the Austintown location at state Route 46 and Interstate 80.