BOARDMAN - A market underserved by gaming establishments and great access to the interstates are two of the main reasons Penn National Gaming looked to Austintown to build a racetrack and video slot terminal, a company spokesman said.
''We felt having a facility right here would serve the community very well,'' said Tim Wilmott, president and chief operating officer of Penn National Gaming Inc. Wilmott was keynote speaker Thursday morning at a Salute to Business presented by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber breakfast. ''The access off the interstate and the road systems are just terrific.''
He saw the site for the first time this week when he visited the proposed location in Centerpointe Business Park off state Route 46 and Interstate 80 in Austintown, and said the highway access was ideal.
Wilmott also said he was comfortable that approval for the relocation would occur.
Penn National Gaming Inc. last month filed an official application for the relocation with Ohio's racing commission to move one of its horse racing tracks from Columbus to Austintown and made application with the state's lottery commission for the licenses it needs to have video lottery terminals at the site.
The local track would be known as Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course, a brand that will be used at 16 racetracks nationwide, including four in Ohio, Wilmott said.
A message left Thursday with the racing commission in Columbus was not immediately returned and there is no indication of when the Ohio Lottery Commission or Ohio State Racing Commission will act on the license requests.
But that's not stopping the company from beginning preliminary site work. Wilmott said construction will be done using skilled trades and he hopes to break ground sometime this fall. They plan to be open for business in the first half of 2014.
Responding to a question about plans for another racino in nearby Lawrence County, Pa., Wilmott expressed no concern.
''We are very aware of the potential project. We believe our project will be successful. It really doesn't have much impact on our project,'' he said.
By early next year the company will begin the education, training and hiring process. The company has estimated the project could bring 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, in addition to the 1,000 or so construction jobs.
Wilmott said many jobs, such as slot machine technicians needed to service up to 1,500 planned terminals, will be well-paying positions with health benefits. Other position, such as servers, will be largely dependent on tips.