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Beulah Park to Reopen Under New Ownership

Beulah Park will open Oct. 12 under the ownership of Penn National Gaming Inc.

Beulah Park, which has changed hands several times in its long history, will open its 2010-11 meet Oct. 12 under the new ownership of Penn National Gaming Inc.

PNGI closed on its purchase of the Grove City, Ohio, racetrack July 1.

Beulah Park, the only Thoroughbred track in the state that offers winter racing, will race live Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through Dec. 22 with first post time of 1:15 Eastern, then reopen in early January after a short holiday break. Purses will average about $35,000 a day, on par with the 2009-10 meet.

Despite declining pari-mutuel handle and purses, the track received 1,500 applications for 1,100 stalls, officials said.

“We struggle competing against tracks with purses fueled by alternative gaming, but our racing is competitive, and given our convenient location we usually have the strong support of horsemen wanting racing opportunities during this time of the year,” racing secretary Edward Vomacka said.

Beulah Park will be the only wagering outlet to offer full-card simulcasts in the Columbus market. Beulah Park and Scioto Downs, a nearby harness track split the calendar each year.

The track will not charge a parking fee this year but does charge admission.

Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for PNGI, which owns tracks in about 10 states, said the company is making some changes at Beulah Park based on the track’s current economic model. Beulah Park doesn’t offer alternative gaming, though it’s widely believed there could be action in that regard before the end of the year.

“We have to get a feel for the operation,” McErlean said. “From a customer service point of view we’ll be focusing on operations and the cleanliness of the facility. We have to learn to do more with less. It’s also a good opportunity to improve horsemen’s relations and start fresh.”

PNGI took a similar approach with Raceway Park, a Toledo, Ohio, harness track it purchased several years ago, McErlean said.

PNGI won voter approval to build two full-scale casinos in Ohio and will do so in Columbus and Toledo.

Approval of video lottery terminals at Ohio tracks would allow Beulah Park to increase purses somewhat, but for now, all purse revenue must come from pari-mutuel wagers.

“If we had less racing dates we could consolidate purse money, but there’s not a magic formula,” McErlean said. “And unfortunately in Ohio, we have a convoluted fund for simulcast revenue. Beulah has a reputation of not having pretty racing from a quality standpoint, but the racing is very competitive.”

Jim McKinney, who has served as the track’s chief financial officer, will take over as general manager from Mike Weiss, who opted to leave Beulah Park after 23 years. “We are excited to resume live racing and to now be part of the larger Penn National Gaming family of racing and gaming facilities,” McKinney said.

During the summer off season the largest project undertaken at Beulah Park was related to environmental regulations. “In order to comply with federal and state regulations, our backstretch manure-holding areas and horse-washing stations had to be tied into a new sanitary sewer system,” McKinney said.  “In addition, a significant amount of time was spent on long-needed projects in the backstretch including barn doors, dorm rooms, and bathrooms.

“We will now be evaluating areas on the customer side for possible upgrades and improvements.”

Beulah Park will bring back its “Fortune 6” wager starting Nov. 8. The 25-cent minimum bet, which puts a spin on the typical pick six, generated a record $1.1 million pool in early May.