Penn to Open; Weather KOs Racing

The slots will spin, but live racing will have to wait at least one more day.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National will open its slot machines to the public Feb. 12, but live Thoroughbred racing will have to wait at least another day.

With a winter weather advisory in place for all of Feb. 12, track management and horsemen decided Feb. 11 it would be best to cancel the opening night program. Live racing is scheduled to resume Feb. 13 at 6:45 p.m. EST if the weather cooperates.

Central Pennsylvania was hit by a blast of frigid air and snow squalls Feb. 10.

Along with gaming, simulcasts will be offered day and night Feb. 12. The new Penn National has a simulcast theater on the second floor, as well as simulcast area on the third floor that connects to a tiered box-seating area.

“Our intention has always been to be able to present the entire gaming, racing, and entertainment experience to our guests on opening day,” Hollywood Casino at Penn National general manager Gary Luderitz said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the weather reports for this region all point toward conditions that would not prove conducive for live racing.”

The weather forecast calls for light snow in the morning and afternoon followed by freezing rain. About one-third of the horses entered Feb. 12 would have to ship from other facilities, track officials said.

The decision to cancel was made the morning of Feb. 11 after consultation with the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“Our horsemen have been anxiously awaiting the return of live racing, but both sides of the track are in agreement that making this decision early is in the best interest of all parties,” Luderitz said. “We wouldn’t want guests coming out for an evening of racing and gaming, and then have the races canceled due to weather-related issues.”

The 2,000 slot machines got test runs Feb. 8 and Feb. 10 when the casino was opened to invited guests. The revenue went to four charities. The test runs were necessary before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could give the final OK for the Hollywood Casino to open as planned.

The old Penn National, which opened in 1972, was demolished in 2006. The new facility with a Hollywood theme is quite striking and offers racing amenities not seen before in Central Pennsylvania, including the upscale box seating area and modern “Mountainview” dining room that overlooks the racetrack and Blue Mountain.

There is covered area on the apron that should function well in the spring, summer, and fall. It has tables adjacent the paddock and access to concessions and the casino.

Penn National last raced Dec. 21, 2007. Live racing and simulcast operations were suspended so work could be done to complete the new facility.

Live racing is scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday nights at the outset, with full-card simulcasts day and night seven days a week.