MTR Gaming Plans Temporary Slots Parlor in Pennsylvania

MTR Gaming Group Inc., which has been granted a state license to build a horse racing track in Pennsylvania, has plans to build a temporary slot machine parlor where customers can gamble during the two years it will take to build the track.

MTR Gaming plans to offer 1,400 slots long before Presque Isle Downs opens, but first must clear several obstacles. Lawmakers must pass a law allowing slot machines at racetracks and the legislation must allow MTR to offer slots at a temporary location on its construction site.

The company, which owns Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va., cleared one hurdle Monday when Summit Township, Erie County, supervisors amended MTR's development plan for land east of Route 97 and south of Interstate 90.

If lawmakers pass the slots bills, MTR wants to start operating the machines as soon as possible to recover some of its expenses, including a licensing fee, said the gaming group's real estate agent, Greg Rubino of Baldwin Brothers Real Estate.

Gov. Ed Rendell said last week he believes the state will pass a bill to allow slot machines at racetracks by the end of the year.

Rubino described the building as a permanent structure with a temporary use. The facility, which would cost more than $1 million, could be constructed within seven months and would sit in the proposed racetrack's parking lot.

When the racetrack complex is built, the slot parlor's machines and 600 slot machines would move into the clubhouse, Rubino said. MTR would then decide what to do with the structure, Rubino said.

MTR chief executive officer Ted Arneault has been granted a state license to build the track in Erie County, although that has been appealed by a rival group also hoping to build a racetrack. The Commonwealth Court will hear arguments on that case in December.

Arneault's stated plans are to build MTR's track on 270 acres in Summit Township. Earlier this fall, Arneault spent $200,000 to extend his options on that property and he has said it remains the focus of his plans.

However, he said he is still considering other locations, including the former International Paper Co. property in the city of Erie. Arneault started to consider the site when he learned of the city's plans to build a convention center nearby.

MTR also is considering a spot near Interstate 90 in McKean Township on land that once belonged to a truck stop.

Supervisors hope Summit Township remains a front-runner because the $100 million complex could bring as many as 800 jobs to the area.

"I've never had any reason to not think it's still a priority site, and I still don't have a reason to think that,'' said Supervisor Marlin Coon.