Likelihood of Slots Leads to Flurry of License Applications in Pennsylvania

With both gubernatorial candidates supporting slot machines at racetracks, a flurry of applications for new licenses were presented to the Pennsylvania State Racing Commission last week in anticipation of the expanded gaming revenue.

MTR Gaming, parent company of Mountaineer Park in Chester, W. Va., had its application approved for a new oval in Erie, Pa., while Greenwood Racing Inc., under the guise of Seaport Park Racing Association, Inc., has applied for the Thoroughbred license in Chester, Pa., at the site of an abandoned shipyard under the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Delaware River, just south of Philadelphia.

"The plans are being put together now," said Philadelphia Park CEO Hal Handel in Monday's Philadelphia Daily News. "We are considering a five-eighths-of-a-mile track with a 6-furlong chute. There would be hotel and convention space."

The name of the proposed track would be Seaport Park, and Greenwood has retained architects Ewing-Cole to draw up plans for the track.

Joseph Lashinger, a former legislator who went on to work in an executive capacity for Penn National Gaming, which owns Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., wants to build a harness track at the same site. Chester Downs and Marina would include a simulcasting facility and restaurant.

Lashinger applied to the Pennsylvania State Harness Racing Commission for a license and said live racing would initially be held for only 25 days. The $21-million facility could be fully operational by the spring of 2004, he said.