AUSTINTOWN - Penn National Gaming Inc. has officially asked Ohio's racing commission permission to relocate one of its horse racing tracks to Austintown and made application with the state's lottery commission for the licenses it needs to have video lottery terminals at the site.
Company president Tim Wilmott on Monday called the actions ''another major step forward'' for moving Penn National's track in Columbus to Austintown and another track from Toledo to Dayton.
If approved, the local track will be known as Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
There is no indication of when the Ohio Lottery Commission or Ohio State Racing Commission will act on the requests, but company officials said they hope it will be sooner rather than later to maintain a proposed 2014 opening.
''What we hope is they will do that in a timely fashion, and that would allow us to break ground in the fall,'' said Bob Tenenbaum, spokesman for Penn National.
The license applications were made to the state Saturday. The facility in Austintown is planned to be a thoroughbred track and in Dayton, a standardbred track.
Construction of the planned $125 million facility in the Centerpointe Business Park, located off state Route 46 here, is expected to last 14 to 18 months.
Penn National has worked out a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Ohio Gov. John Kasich's office to pay, over time, a $75 million fee to relocate each track and then another $50 million fee for each track for the lottery terminal licenses.
Another step for Penn National is for the racing commission to formally adopt a rule that sets the relocation fee. The license application and fee rule are exclusive to one another, Tenenbaum said.
Penn National has had to overcome a series of hurdles to get to this point, including the agreement with the governor's office and needing lawmakers to pass legislation to allow for slot machines at race tracks. The latest obstacle was cleared in May when a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge dismissed lawsuits that could have blocked the progression of horse racing in the Mahoning Valley.