PNGI Preparing to Act on Beulah Relocation

Applications for VLTs and relocation of the racing license will be submitted.

Penn National Gaming Inc. is preparing applications in Ohio for video lottery terminals and relocation in connection with its plan to move Beulah Park to the Youngstown area.

PNGI vice president of racing Chris McErlean said June 21 the VLT application would go to the Ohio Lottery Commission and the relocation application to the Ohio State Racing Commission. The company plans to build a facility called Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown, which is located west of Youngstown in northeastern Ohio.

“I believe we’re planning to get the (applications) submitted by the end of (June),” McErlean said. “We’re not sure of the timetable for (the lottery and racing commissions) acting on them.”

OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz has said the commission may entertain relocation applications in the third quarter of 2012.

The VLT law of 2011 allows racetracks to apply to transfer their licenses to new locations if they believe markets are underserved or to avoid competition with full-scale casinos. PNGI plans to open a full-scale casino on the west side of Columbus not far from Beulah Park. Scioto Downs, a harness track owned by MTR Gaming Group, opened a VLT casino in south Columbus June 1.

PNGI owns about 185 acres just south of Interstate 80. McErlean said plans call for a one-mile dirt racing surface and barn area, though the company is still negotiating with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association as to the number of barns and stalls.

Also unresolved is the amount of money from VLTs that will go to horsemen for purses. A 2012 law states that if racetracks and horsemen’s group can’t strike a deal, the OSRC can set a rate no lower than 9% and no higher than 11%.

McErlean said PNGI hopes to break ground on the racetrack casino this fall and, if things progress quickly, the track could be ready to open by late 2013 or early 2014. Racing will continue at Beulah Park during the transition; the track traditionally applies to race from October through early May and could be hosting a meet when Mahoning Valley is completed.

PNGI hopes the proposed track will work with Thistledown, a Cleveland-area track owned by Rock Ohio Caesars, to create a racing circuit with no overlap in dates. Thistledown usually races from late April through November.

There remains an outstanding legal challenge to racetrack VLTs. On May 30 a Common Pleas Court judge ruled the Ohio Roundtable doesn’t have the legal standing to bring the lawsuit against the state and other parties; it has 30 days to appeal.

“We’re doing everything we can do without having to commit major dollars (until there is clarity),” McErlean said.

PNGI also built a full-scale casino in Toledo and plans to move Raceway Park, a local harness track, to the Dayton area.