COLUMBUS - Officials with Penn National Gaming Inc. told the Ohio State Racing Commission in Columbus on Thursday that it wants to move its two Ohio harness racing tracks to Austintown and Dayton. Their proposal was met with mixed results.
According to the proposal, Penn National said "following a lengthy and thorough internal economic impact analysis, Penn National intends to seek permission from the Ohio State Racing Commission to relocate Toledo's Raceway Park to Austintown Township in the Mahoning Valley, and Grove City's Beulah Park to the northern part of Dayton in the Miami Valley."
The proposed Austintown track would be located in a 186-acre site at Centerpointe business park, just off state Route 11 and the Interstate 80 interchange.
Eric Schippers Sr. of Penn National Gaming Inc. conducts press conference at Chamber Thursday.
Opposition came from the owner of Northfield Park harness racetrack in Northfield - which stated it wants to be involved in any new racetrack in the area - and from Mahoning Valley Development, which says it will proceed with its plans for a $300 million racetrack and resort facility in the Mahoning Valley regardless.
Wilmott told commission members he wasn't asking for them to make any decision Thursday, but Penn National wanted to make its intentions known.
The proposal to move the tracks is completely dependent on the authorization of video lottery terminals (VLTs) at racetracks, Penn National President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Wilmott said.
Tribune Chronicle photo / R. Michael Semple
Eric Schippers Sr., vice president of Public Affairs and Governmental Relations with Penn National Gaming Inc., talks about the racetrack relocation proposal during a press conference Thursday at the
Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber office.
As the owners of the two future casinos being built in Columbus and Toledo, Penn believes that the proximity of their tracks without VLT's and the casino would be a detriment to one another, Wilmott said.
"This proposal is entirely contingent on VLT's," he said.
As for what decision new Ohio Gov. John Kasich will make regarding VLT's and when, that remains to be known.
Wilmott stated that Penn is unsure of Kasich's stance on the terminals saying that they do not know when or if approval is coming. When asked if the state does not approve the addition of VLT's at racetracks, would both Beulah and Raceway parks remain open, Wilmott said "yes."
Wilmott told the commission that Penn National would invest a total of $400 million between the two new racetracks.
According to their numbers, Penn estimates that the creation of the two new tracks would create about 3,000 new direct and indirect jobs and add more than $200 million to Ohio's annual gaming tax receipts. They also estimate the new tracks would annually generate more than $18 million in increased racing purses.
According to Penn officials, the site that they are proposing for the north Dayton track would be in a site once housing a Delphi plant.
After the proposal was made and commissioners offered their questions and concerns to Penn National's officials, members of the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions and make their opinions heard.
Of the three members of the audience to speak their mind, it was a letter read by a representative of Brock Milstein, operator of Northfield Park harness racing track.
In the letter, Milstein states, "I have followed with great interest various reports concerning the possibility of constructing a racing facility in the Youngstown area.
''Given the wide ranging and obvious difficulties that are currently plaguing all Ohio racetracks, including severe declines in handle and shortages of horses, I strongly believe that adding another track or relocating an existing track will only exacerbate our already significant problems as an industry," he wrote.
The letter states that Northfield Park in the Cleveland suburb of Northfield has been under the same ownership for 39 years and has operated "one of the most successful racing facilities in Ohio and the country."
Milstein then states that if the commission is giving serious consideration of constructing a horse racing facility in Youngstown that "we very much desire to be part of the process.''
Northfield then outlined how Northfield "has the flexibility to approach the establishment of a Youngstown facility from number of perspectives ... by utilizing our expertise and the synergies of operating in proximate locations, we are the only party that could realistically turn an otherwise inherently dilutive and destructive situation into a positive for the industry.''
Also commenting was the attorney with Mahoning Valley Development, which has proposed a racetrack and resort, possibly in Vienna in Trumbull County, told the commission that MVD is planning to proceed with its plans regardless of Penn's intentions. He asked the commission to keep an open mind regarding proposals that will be forthcoming.
Commissioners asked Penn if rumors of other proposed tracks influenced their decision for relocations. Wilmott answered, ''We've been looking at this for a couple months" but that the "public announcements" (by MVD) did cause them to go public before they would have liked.
Wilmott said that if the VLT are approved this year that the realistic opening of a new Austintown track would be "most likely" 2013.