Mountaineer Parent Has Plan For Erie Track

A new subsidiary of MTR Gaming Group, owner of Mountaineer Racetrack & Gaming Resort, has applied for a license to construct a Thoroughbred racetrack in Erie, Pa. Live racing hasn't been held in Erie since the late 1980s.

Presque Isle Downs Inc., the subsidiary, made the announcement Thursday. The company said plans call for a racetrack with dirt and turf courses, as well as dining and entertainment facilities, on 135 acres. It did say, though, there is no assurance the plan will be executed.

Ben Nolt Jr., executive secretary of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, said Thursday Presque Isle Downs has applied for a new license, not one held by the former operator of a defunct track in Erie. The facility opened in the early 1970s as Commodore Downs; in the early 1980s, it was leased by The Meadows harness operation and called Lake Shore Meadows; and later that decade, Thoroughbred racing returned briefly under the name of Erie Downs.

Nolt said no interest has been shown in building a racetrack in the Erie area in recent years. Nolt said the application process for Presque Isle Downs is "open-ended" and depends largely on a background investigation.

Penn National Gaming, through its Downs at Pocono harness track, operates the only off-track betting parlor in Erie. Richard Orbann, president of Penn National Gaming, couldn't be reached to comment on his company's position on the plans by MTR Gaming.

MTR Gaming in a statement said it selected Erie as a potential site for racing because it is located only 150 from Mountaineer in West Virginia and presents opportunities for cross-promotion. It also called Erie, home of Presque Isle State Park on the Lake Erie shore, a "resort and tourist destination."

The announcement came only days after a western Pennsylvania legislator said he would propose legislation this fall to introduce racetrack slot-machine referendums in counties in which racetracks are located. Rep. Tom Petrone, in a press release, listed only the counties in which The Meadows, Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, and The Downs at Pocono are located.