River Downs in Ohio is currently a construction site.

River Downs in Ohio is currently a construction site.

Tom LaMarra

Bill Allowing Transfer of Ohio Dates Signed

The fate of a River Downs-at Beulah Park meet could be decided April 16.

by John Kady

Republican Gov. John Kasich April 1 signed into law a transportation bill that includes an amendment that would facilitate transfer of the 2013 River Downs race meet to Beulah Park.

The grandstand and some barns at River Downs were demolished earlier this year to make way for a new racetrack gaming facility and reconfigured racing surfaces. Because a live meet can't be held, owner Pinnacle Entertainment has attempted to move the meet to Beulah Park near Columbus.

The Ohio State Racing Commission March 27 approved a 65-day River-at-Beulah meet contingent upon passage of a statute allowing such a transfer of dates. A few paragraphs to that effect are buried in the transportation bill.

The language states that through Dec. 31, 2013, the OSRC can issue a temporary permit to conduct live horse racing meetings "at a location where other permits to conduct live horse racing meetings have been issued." The permit would be granted for a period "not to aggregate more than one year" for the date of issuance.

The language also allows the holder of a temporary permit–in this case River Downs–to apply to the Ohio Lottery Commission for a video lottery terminal license at its current location and also offer full-card simulcasts. The River Downs clubhouse, which houses its race book, is expected to be used until the new facility opens sometime in 2014.

OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz said other details must be resolved before approval is granted for the meet transfer. A meeting is scheduled for April 16 to perhaps approve the transfer.

As of late March Penn National Gaming Inc. and the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association hadn't finalized the deal by which Beulah Park would race this spring and summer in place of River Downs. Part of the agreement is tied to the Ohio HBPA signing off PNGI's plans for a new racetrack gaming facility near Youngstown that would replace Beulah Park.

Tom LaMarra contributed to this story