Pa. Governor Deems License Applications a 'Gold Rush'

A flurry of applications for both Thoroughbred and harness licenses in Pennsylvania has been called a "gold rush" by newly elected Governor Ed Rendell. Rendell, who favors legalizing slot machines at racetracks, has urged the state's racing commission's to act slowly in order to ensure the best companies that are dedicated to building the best tracks are licensed.

This week, Magna Entertainment became the latest company to throw its hat into the license-application fray. It applied for a license to conduct Thoroughbred racing in Allegheny County, northwest of Pittsburgh, in Findlay Township. The property is situated less than three miles from the Pittsburgh International Airport and less than 18 miles from the center of Pittsburgh's business district, and within a short drive from Mountaineer Park, which is located in nearby West Virginia.

In a press release, Jim McAlpine, President and CEO of MEC, said: "For quite some time we have believed that Western Pennsylvania is a prime market for a new Thoroughbred racetrack. We are delighted that we have secured a site that we think is ideally located for a new track. We believe that the Thoroughbred racing at our planned facility would complement the harness racing that we currently conduct at The Meadows, in Washington County, Pa."

Other applications for the one remaining thoroughbred license in the state have been filed by Greenwood Racing Inc., which has proposed Seaport Park in Chester County, Pa.; Horsemen's Park, LLC, a group of owners headed by Sal De Bunda, who is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association at Philadelphia Park, and 1935, Inc., which has proposed a racetrack in White Oak, Allegheny County.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission has held several hearings on Seaport Park, but action on the application has been delayed until the Commission can consider financial documents submitted by Greenwood Racing.

Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood, said the horse racing commission has not set a date for another hearing on Seaport.

Efforts to reach Ben Nolt, executive director of the horse racing commission, as to the status of the license applications were not successful.

The two harness racing licenses available have been applied for by Chester Downs & Marina, LLC, which is headed by former Penn National Gaming, Inc. executive Joseph Lashinger, and Trotters & Pacers, Inc. Chester Downs would be located on 61 acres south of Philadelphia, not far from Seaport Park.

Recently, both outgoing Gov. Mark Schweiker and Rendell have delayed hearings by the Harness Racing Commission on Chester Downs, and on Thursday the Delaware County Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property on which the track would be located, said it would hire a lawyer to investigate the role of both governors in delaying the application process.

Schweiker, and then Rendell canceled two hearings on Chester Downs this month, without notifying the Authority.

While the Authority doesn't have prosecutorial powers, it could contact the U. S. Attorney General or the state Attorney General if the lawyer discovers any criminal activity.