MTR Gaming: Racetrack VLTs Still on Table

MTR Gaming Group believes there will be movement on racetrack gaming in Ohio.

An MTR Gaming Group official said Nov. 4 passage of a casino referendum in Ohio will create new competition but also offer opportunity for racetracks in the Buckeye State.

Robert Griffin, president and chief executive officer of the company that owns Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia, Scioto Downs in Ohio, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania, said a potential negative could become a positive.

He commented as the company released its third-quarter earnings statement. Net income for the quarter was $577,000; net revenue of $119.5 million, down 9% from the same period in 2008.

The Ohio casino referendum, called Issue 3, authorizes casinos in the state’s four largest cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. It doesn’t mandate them, and there is no timeframe for their construction and operation.

Meanwhile, the horseracing industry, which supports racetrack video lottery terminals, isn’t convinced the issue is dead even though the Ohio Supreme Court rejected Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s directive to the Ohio Lottery to install VLTs at the state’s seven tracks. Strickland is awaiting another high court ruling on whether the Ohio Lottery has its own authority to install VLTs.

“The voters of Ohio approved Issue 3, which will increase the competition in our regional markets starting around 2013,” Griffin said in a statement. “We are considering several different alternatives in order to proactively prepare for the new competition. Although this may appear to be a negative, we believe that it may result in slots at tracks, as the governor has proposed, with better economic terms than were originally discussed.

“To that end, we are working diligently to have this initiative reintroduced in the state.”

MTR Gaming was a major financial supporter of TruthPAC, which opposed Issue 3. All three of the company’s tracks, because of their location, would be impacted by casino competition.

Officials at other tracks in Ohio believe there will be movement on the racetrack VLT plan.

Year-to-date net income for 2009 was $1.7 million, of which income of $1.4 million was from discontinued operations. In the same period last year, the MTR Gaming reported a net loss of $13.2 million, which included a loss of $13.5 million from discontinued operations.