Mahoning Valley Race Course

Mahoning Valley Race Course

Courtesy of Mahoning Valley Race Course

Ohio Racing Benefits From Misfortune in WV

Numbers for the first week of racing at Mahoning Valley are up from last year.

The early closure of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia has had a positive impact on Hollywood Casino at Mahoning Valley Race Course, at least for the first six days of its 2015-16 meet. And revenue from video lottery terminals has greatly added to the purse account.

Though six days of racing as of Nov. 7, Mahoning Valley has paid an average of $143,517 in purses per day versus $85,625 for the first 21 days of its inaugural meet through December 2014. Average field size has jumped from 8.57 last year to 10.40 this year, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

Mahoning Valley, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., opened in late November last year. The track became a reality after PNGI moved its license from Beulah Park near Columbus to the Youngstown area to capitalize on authorization of racetrack VLTs in Ohio.

Total pari-mutuel handle has been strong for Ohio racing: $935,007 Nov. 2; $752,405 Nov. 3; and $743,110 for Nov. 4. Mahoning Valley races Monday through Wednesday to capitalize on simulcast dollars, as well as Saturday, when the emphasis is on on-track business.

Meanwhile, Mountaineer, the first Thoroughbred track in the United States to have VLTs—as part of an experiment with the West Virginia Lottery in 1990—was approved to cut 50 nights from its 2015 schedule in order to conserve purse money. Mountaineer ended its season Oct. 16, though it was approved to race through mid-December.

The two tracks are located about 45 minutes apart. Management and horsemen at Mountaineer, which had been a year-round track, are attempting to create a winter circuit with Mahoning Valley. Mountaineer has been negatively impacted by the development of casinos in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as legislative reductions in the amount of VLT revenue that goes to purses.