Centaur, which owns Hoosier Park in Indiana, received approval Sept. 5 from the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission to build and operate a mile-long harness track and gaming facility in northwest Pennsylvania.
Valley View Downs will be developed by Centaur, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., on a 250-acre site in Lawrence County, near Pittsburgh.
“This license has been worth the wait, and we’re excited about the prospects for economic vitality that this project will bring to the Western Pennsylvania region,” said Roderick Ratcliff, Centaur’s chairman and CEO. Ratcliff said the next step would be approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
“We can’t predict when we might receive the final approval, but we’ll be ready to start building at such time as we are favored with a gaming license,” he added. He estimated the project cost at $428 million, with an annual payroll of $33 million. “This should create 1,500 construction jobs and another 1,000 full-time and part-time jobs when we’re operational, with more job opportunities as expansions occur,” Ratcliff said.
Doug Harbach, director of communications of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said state law enables seven race tracks to be licensed for slots and casinos in Pennsylvania. So far, there are six licensed facilities, including the recently opened Presque Isle Downs in Erie, which leaves one slot open for Valley View. When completed, Valley View Downs will have 150 live racing days on the one-mile racing oval and 363 days of simulcast.
"There would be no competition for (Centaur), but they have to go through a process of hearings and background investigations in order to be gauged suitable to hold a license," said Harbach. "That process will take place in the near future when the board sets a time for an application period."
Harbach added that state law limits each gaming facility to a maximum of 5,000 slot machines and will not allow table games or other types of gambling.
"It's too early to say whether or not (Valley View) is going to be a licensed facility," said Harbach.
Jeffrey Smith, CEO of racing for Centaur, said, “We expect this facility to generate more than $40 million for purses and breed development." He conceded the streams of revenue from gaming were on the forefront of the minds of Centaur officials when considering the racetrack's possibilities.
Smith added that the backstretch area, when fully developed, will feature eight barns with stalls for 712 horses, as well as a paddock with 145 additional stalls and dormitory facilities for 100 horsemen. Parking for hundreds of horsemen and their trailers or vans will also be included.
Smith said the clubhouse and entertainment facility will spread across 250,000 square feet, with two main levels featuring 3,000 slot machines, restaurants, lounges, concession stands, an outdoor terrace, tiered indoor viewing areas, and a race book “tele-theater” to view simulcast races.
In addition to the boost the project is expected to provide for the local breeding and racing economies, it will also generate an estimated $162 million annually for the state, and up to $16.6 million annually for Lawrence County.
“We plan to make this site a unique entertainment venue, designed from the ground up as a truly integrated racing/gaming facility,” said Smith, expressing his goal for the facility to attract more than 4 million visitors a year.
Smith added that once the racetrack is built, it could possibly be expandable for future development, with a hotel and additional casino, as well as retail and other commercial developments.