Beulah Park Will Likely Move to Youngstown

PNGI had earlier planned to move the Thoroughbred license to Dayton, Ohio.

Penn National Gaming Inc. now plans to request to move Beulah Park near Columbus, Ohio, to a site near Youngstown rather than Dayton, according to its latest financial report.

With the expected advent of racetrack video lottery terminals in Ohio, PNGI has said it wants to move its two racetracks—the other is Raceway Park, a Toledo harness track—to new locations to avoid competing with two full-scale casinos it is building in Columbus and Toledo. The Ohio State Racing Commission must approve the relocations.

It has been repeatedly reported the Beulah Park license would move to Dayton, and the Raceway Park license to Youngstown. Neither market has racing or casino gambling.

Last fall sources told The Blood-Horse there was talk of a change in plans because the Youngstown area property is much larger and could better support a Thoroughbred racetrack. In a Feb. 2 statement accompanying the company’s 2011 earnings report, PNGI chairman and chief executive officer Peter Carlino indicated that is the strategy.

“The State of Ohio has approved the placement of VLTs at the state’s seven racetracks, and while we await the final regulatory framework, we are actively pursuing the relocation of our existing racetracks in Toledo and Grove City to Dayton and Youngstown, respectively, subject to the satisfaction of regulatory and other approvals,” Carlino said.

The state is in the process of resolving a lawsuit from a public policy group challenging the legality of the 2011 law that authorized racetrack VLTs. But one track, Scioto Downs near Columbus, is proceeding with construction of a gaming parlor.

Youngstown is located about 90 minutes from Thistledown near Cleveland. If the Beulah Park license were to move to Youngstown, the two tracks would form a year-round circuit in northeastern Ohio. The only Thoroughbred track in south or western Ohio would be River Downs near Cincinnati.

If the OSRC were to approve relocation of the Raceway Park harness license to Dayton, that market would have two harness tracks. The owners of Lebanon Raceway are planning to construct a new racing and VLT facility just south of Dayton.

In its financial statements PNGI reported that Hollywood Casino Toledo is scheduled to open in May 2012, and Hollywood Casino Columbus in November 2012. At the outset live racing would continue in those markets at Raceway Park and Beulah Park, respectively.

In comments Feb. 2 PNGI officials said they are proceeding cautiously with VLTs in Ohio given the outstanding lawsuit but will "be prepared to move quickly once there is clarity." PNGI also said it isn't concerned if Scioto Downs, owned by MTR Gaming Group, opens a VLT parlor before Hollywood Casino Columbus opens in the fall.

Scioto Downs plans to open with 2,125 VLTs. The PNGI facility will have full-scale gaming and other amenities.

"We have no concern given the quality of the facility they are building at Scioto Downs," PNGI president and chief operating officer Tim Wilmott said.

"We're not remotely worried," Carlino said.

PNGI reported net income of $242.4 million for 2011, $44 million of it in the fourth quarter. For 2010, the company posted a net loss of $59.5 million, according to financial documents.

PNGI is now reporting revenue by segments rather than individual properties. The strongest segment, which includes Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, led the way with $1.29 billion in revenue in 2011.

One of the four segments is for racing operations such as Beulah Park that currently have no gaming component. The company reported revenue of $2.74 million from the properties in 2011, up from $2.45 million in 2010.

PNGI reported a gain of $20.2 million last year from sale of its interest in the Maryland Jockey Club, which is now owned by The Stronach Group.