Presque Isle Downs Opens for Slot-Machine Gaming

Pennsylvania unveiled its fourth racino Feb. 28 when Presque Isle Downs near Erie officially opened its doors to the public.

The 48,074-square-foot gaming facility has two floors, 2,000 slot machines, three restaurants, and three lounges. The state-of-the-art facility, which will eventually include a racetrack, grandstand, and clubhouse, is set to begin live Thoroughbred racing Sept. 1. It will be the third Thoroughbred racetrack in the Keystone state.

A third-floor simulcast facility will be ready for action by late May.

“The level of excitement around here is the highest we’ve seen in the four places we’ve opened so far,” said Kevin Hayes, assistant chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. “There is really a buzz in this area, thanks to the local media and the smaller market it’s in. With the long winter, I think people were really looking forward to this.

“We’ve had a couple of testing days and everything seems to going very well. I think this will be a facility that all the people of Erie can be proud of.”

Presque Isle is owned by MTR Gaming Group, which owns and operates Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in West Virginia. Like Mountaineer, plans eventually call for a hotel and concert hall, among other nighttime activities.

John Brabender, spokesperson for Presque Isle, said the economic impact of the racino cannot be understated.

“For an area that has lost a lot of jobs and had economic problems for some time, this will really be a nice boost to the economy,” he said. “The casino itself has created 700 jobs, and by the time the racetrack opens, 2,000 people will have new jobs.”

The other slots facilities to have opened in Pennsylvania are Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Chester Downs, both harness racetracks, and Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack, the state’s major Thoroughbred facility.

Slots play totaled $918,339,250 at the three facilities as of Feb. 22. The gross terminal revenue (amount after wins) was $84,998,996, of which 12% goes directly to the state’s racing industry.

“So far, the numbers have exceeded our expectations,” said Melinda Tucker, director of racetrack gaming for the gaming control board. “Philadelphia Park’s numbers are right on target, but Pocono Downs is doing twice what we anticipated.”