Magna Back in Hunt for Pennsylvania Track License

by Dan Reynolds

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission has finalized at five the number of applicants seeking the final Thoroughbred racing license in the state. Only four applicants hit an informal Aug. 16 deadline to apply for the last license, but Magna Entertainment Corp. has reiterated its interest in building a track near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The commission finalized MEC's inclusion on the list of applicants Aug. 24. Kristina Watson, a spokeswoman for the commission, said dates for public hearings on each of the five applicants' plans should be set in the coming weeks.

In addition to MEC, two other groups plan Thoroughbred racetracks close to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Palisades Park, headed by Beaver County developer Charles Betters, would like to build a track above the Monongahela River in the Hays section of Pittsburgh as part of a 653-acre development. Churchill Downs Inc. would operate the track should the application be successful.

1935 Inc., formed by five members of the Biros family, would like to build a track on 200 acres near Coulterville Road in South Versailles Township, about 25 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh. Bob Goldman, an attorney representing the family, said his clients would seek a zoning change from South Versailles commissioners Aug. 26 that could clear the way for the track's development.

Goldman said the land owned by the Biros family is currently zoned residential. "They don't have any zoning category where this activity can take place," Goldman said.

In addition to the Pittsburgh-area applications, the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association would like to develop and own a track in the Lehigh Valley near Nazareth. And a group called Bedford Downs Management Corp. has proposed either a Thoroughbred or Standardbred track in Lawrence County.

None of the five applicants is guaranteed a license to operate slot machines. Architects of slots legislation passed and signed into law in July said Pittsburgh and the Lehigh Valley areas are likely recipients of two of five Category Two slots licenses. Philadelphia will get two, and the resort area of the Pocono Mountains is the other likely recipient, officials said.