MTR Gaming Applies for Ohio VLT License

All seven racetracks in the Buckeye State are eligible for VLTs under a 2011 law.

The parent company of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania is the first to apply for a video lottery terminal license in Ohio.

MTR Gaming Group said Dec. 20 it has submitted its application for VLTs at Scioto Downs with the Ohio Lottery Commission, which is licensing racetracks as gaming vendors under a law passed earlier this year. Scioto Downs is a harness track located just south of Columbus.

Of the seven Ohio racetracks, five are owned by casino companies. MTR Gaming is the first to apply for racetrack VLT license.

Should Penn National Gaming Inc. proceed with plans to request the relocation of Beulah Park, a Thoroughbred track near Columbus, Scioto Downs would be the site of year-round full-card simulcasts. PNGI is building a full-scale casino in Columbus.

The gaming application comes despite a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Roundtable, a public policy group that is fighting the VLT law. It claims racetrack VLTs must be approved in a statewide referendum as were four casinos in 2009.

The company said after reviewing Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s response to the lawsuit, it is comfortable continuing the process of building and opening a gaming facility at Scioto Downs. MTR Gaming said it “continues to believe the facility will open in the second quarter of 2012.”

Racetracks can have a minimum of 2,500 VLTs but can request more under regulations adopted by the lottery commission.

DeWine in his request to have the lawsuit tossed said the Ohio Roundtable “has not established any direct interest or injury sufficient to establish standing, so this lawsuit should be dismissed in its entirety.” He said the lawsuit’s claims “are simply not ripe for judicial review.”

MTR Gaming president and chief executive officer Jeffrey Dahl said the company is confident the suit has no merit.

“We look forward to receiving our license—which we expect to be issued within a reasonable time frame—and developing the Scioto Downs VLT facility, which we believe will drive significant long-term stockholder value and create hundreds of jobs in the Columbus area,” Dahl said in a statement.

Other Ohio tracks owned by casino companies are River Downs, Thistledown, and Raceway Park. Lebanon Raceway and Northfield Park currently are privately owned.

The lottery commission in its rules said racetracks will have the option of operating VLTs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each racetrack would have to pay a $50 million licensing fee to install VLTs under a state tax rate of 33.5%.

PNGI has filed a request with the Ohio State Racing Commission to transfer the licenses of its racetracks to other locations in the state to avoid competition with the full-scale casinos and to generate revenue in untappped markets. A PNGI spokesman said the company hasn't determined what it will do with the physical portions of the racetracks at Beulah Park and Raceway Park in Toledo.

OSRC chairman Bob Schmitz said he believes no final decisions on racetrack relocations will be made until the court cases are resolved.

John Kady contributed to this story