Ohio Racing Plans Remain in Stall Mode

The River Downs-at-Beulah Park meet and plans for new tracks in Ohio are in flux.

A plan to shift the 2013 River Downs meet to Beulah Park remains on hold, and developers of new racetrack gaming facilities in Ohio were told to go back to the drawing board in terms of indoor seating for racing patrons.

The Ohio State Racing Commission, meeting March 27 for the third time in as many weeks, again expressed dissatisfaction with Penn National Gaming and a partnership of Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware North Companies on their plans for the new tracks. The primary issue for the OSRC is seating that has views of live racing action.

PNGI plans to move Beulah Park near Columbus to Austintown Township near Youngstown, and Raceway Park, a Toledo harness track, to Dayton. CDI and Delaware North hope to move the license of Lebanon Raceway, a harness track, about seven miles west to a location between Cincinnati and Dayton.

The objective is to capitalize on new markets when video lottery terminals are installed at the facilities under a 2011 law.

PNGI vice president of racing Chris McErlean said March 27 the company was told to return to the OSRC with a proposal that increases indoor seating by 650. McErlean said the commission was told changes to the existing footprint for both facilities could delay each project by four to six months.

"We're going back to see what our options are (with facility seating)," McErlean said.

OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz said the relocation plans would be approved when the seating capacity is expanded.

As for the River Downs-at-Beulah Park meet, the two tracks have an agreement on the "economics and logistics," McErlean said. The hang-up is the lack of a deal with the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on racing dates and horsemen-related aspects of the proposed Hollywood at Mahoning Valley Race Course, including number of stalls in the barn area.

The OSRC noted the River Downs meet transfer hinges on legislative language. It is included as an amendment to a transportation bill that is awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

The meet would begin May 19 and run for 65 days through early October. River Downs, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, is being redeveloped into a racetrack gaming facility that will open in 2014; it can't currently accommodate a live race meet.

John Kady contributed to this story.