Fate of Erie Racetrack May Be Decided Sept. 26

MTR Gaming is expected to learn Sept. 26 whether it will receive a license for a new racetrack in Erie, Pa.

The owner of Mountaineer Racetrack & Gaming Resort applied for the license in June 2001. Since then, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission has held public hearing in Erie and allowed anyone interested to submit written comments for or against the license. The period for people to submit comments ended Aug. 15 and now the decision rests with the racing commission, which is expected to take its vote during a regular meeting Sept. 26.

"There opposition from people who would prefer that that sort of facility not exist in their community, and form others who just feel it is inappropriate," said Benjamin Nolt Jr., the Pennsylvania racing commission's executive secretary.
Nolt said the meeting would not provide a forum for supporters or opponents to make last minute pleas.

"We have already done that," he said.

MTR Gaming's plan would return live racing to the northwest quadrant of Pennsylvania, which hasn't had a racetrack since the late 1980s. The new track would be built and run by a subsidiary named Presque Isle Downs, which would construct a dirt and turf course plus dining and entertainment facilities on 135 acres.

MTR Gaming said it selected Erie because it is only 150 miles from Mountaineer in West Virginia and presents opportunities for cross-promotion. The plans for the new track were also released around the same time a western Pennsylvania legislators announced he would introduce a bill that would allow slot machines at racetracks. Pennsylvania is considered by many gambling industry analysts to be the next likely state to adopt racetrack gaming.