MTR Gaming To Build New Track in Erie

With minimal discussion, Pennsylvania racing commissioners Thursday morning granted MTR Gaming permission to build and operate a new racetrack in Erie.

Presque Isle Downs, the wholly owned subsidiary that will operate the racetrack, must run its first live race within 36 months, according to Benjamin Nolt, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.

MTR Gaming is a publicly held company that owns and operates Mountaineer Race Track and Resort in northwest West Virginia. The news sparked a run on MTR's stock, which rose 11.1% by the end of the day to $9.80. The volume of buying was heavy with more than 2.5 million shares changing hands compared with the company's average daily volume of 328,227 shares.

Presque Isle Downs intends to build dirt and turf courses plus facilities for concerts and other entertainment.

"We are enthusiastic about building in Erie, which is already a resort and tourist destination, and we hope to have the facility open in time for the 2004 racing season," said Ted Arneault, president and chief executive officer of MTR Gaming. "Additionally, the new facility will present cross marketing opportunities with Mountaineer, which is approximately 150 miles from Erie."

The project had been opposed Penn National Gaming because it runs an off-track betting parlor in Erie that is associated with its Pocono Downs harness track. Penn National spokesman Joe Jaffoni said the company had no comment regarding the new license.

Presque Isle Downs would return live racing to the northwest quadrant of Pennsylvania, which hasn't had a racetrack since Erie Downs closed in the late 1980s. The track bears the same name as a 3,200-acre peninsula and state park that extends seven miles into Lake Erie. The peninsula is directly offshore from downtown Erie.