Officials: Racino will be a boon

YOUNGSTOWN – Mahoning County commissioners on Thursday said they are excited after the Ohio Racing Commission finally gave the go-ahead on Wednesday to a proposed racino in Austintown.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said he thinks the support of the residents who want the project here was the factor that made the commission decide to give their approval after rejecting several previous designs.

”The community stood so strong behind this project that Columbus was afraid to do any more damage,” Traficanti said.

The commission has rejected several designs by the operators of the proposed racino, Penn National, over the number of seats that will be built to allow patrons to watch horse racing.

Penn National had most recently proposed 513 indoor track seating with plans to add more seats in phases 2 and 3, if the need was warranted. The race commission, however, had been insisting on closer to 1,400 spectator seats.

In the end, the sides agreed Wednesday on 1,001 indoor seats with potential to add 466 more seats if attendance figures demand. The sides will agree on criteria that will be used to determine when and if those seats become warranted.

Commissioner David Ditzler, a former Austintown trustee, said the estimated cost of that is $6 million and he said he hoped that the cost of the additional seats will not be taken out of what was planned for the interior of the facility.

He said he went to three similar racinos and there was only a ”smattering” of people watching horse racing. He said most of the people at those racinos were taking part in other forms of gambling.

”I’d love to see 1,000 seats filled, but once again, it’s another government force-down,” Ditzler said.

Ditzler said the project will be good for increasing jobs in the area.

Commissioner Chairwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti said it is estimated 2,300 jobs will be added by the racino, and it will be a benefit for Trumbull and Columbiana counties as well.

The facility is expected to open in mid-2014 on 190 acres near the intersection of Interstate 80 and state Route 46 in Austintown. The race commission also gave approval for Penn National to complete a similar track relocation to Dayton.