Penn National Gaming, Inc. filed for its gaming license and consent to move its two race tracks on Saturday, June 30. If all goes as planned, the groundbreaking will take place this fall in Austintown.
"No application to a state commission is ever a done deal," said Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum. "The Lottery Commission will make a decision whether to issue a VLT license based on our application, while the Racing Commission has the authority to either approve or decline our application to relocate. Having said that, we are confident we meet all requirements and do not anticipate any difficulty in being awarded a VLT license and gaining permission to relocate."
Penn National has already overcome two obstacles that had to be finalized before application for the license could be submitted. It achieved a memorandum of understanding with Ohio Gov. John Kasich's office where Penn National agreed to pay, over time, a $75 million relocation fee for each racetrack in addition to the $50 million VLT license fee per track.
The one other issue delaying the application was a lawsuit from the Ohio Roundtable that challenged the VLT process. That lawsuit was dismissed in court and thus no longer can hold back the progress.
With Saturday's application, Penn National will have a short waiting period before the decision comes down. Once the license and permission to move the tracks is made, work can begin.
"We believe that once all of the state approvals are in hand, we can break ground relatively quickly," Tenenbaum said. "As you know, we hope to be able to break ground this fall."
The new Austintown facility will include a mile-long thoroughbred track located on 184 acres at Centerpointe Business Park, at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Ohio 46. It will also will feature restaurants, bars and other amenities. Each is expected to create approximately 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, and to generate approximately 1,000 construction jobs. It will be known as Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course, and will contain 1,500 video lottery terminals.
Tenebaum said Penn National will continue to operate Beulah Park in the Columbus suburb of Grove City and Raceway Park in Toledo until each respective new location is up and running by sometime in 2014.
For Austintown, the new track will bring much needed jobs as well as an economic boost. Trustee Lisa Oles said it is the biggest endeavor to come to Austintown.
"Monumental changes are about to take place in Austintown," Oles said. "Penn National's plans to build Hollywood Slots in Austintown is the largest and most exciting development project to take place in the history of our township. The project will obviously mean employment opportunities for our residents. The project will spur additional growth for restaurants, hotels, and stores. The real estate market will thrive. This new adventure we embark upon with Penn National will certainly put Austintown on the map. It's all very exciting."