Beulah Park in central Ohio is poised to be, or has been, sold to Penn National Gaming Inc., according to Ohio racing industry representatives.
PNGI previously had an option on Beulah Park, but the deal ended up in a lawsuit filed by Beulah Park majority owner Charles Ruma. Earlier this year, rumors again surfaced that PNGI and Beulah Park were negotiating a sale agreement.
Sources said March 4 the deal was expected to be finalized that day and announced at the close of the stock market, but nothing public materialized. Like other public companies, PNGI doesn’t comment on pending purchases; racing industry sources said there might not be a release on the deal.
It's unclear whether the racetrack, or just its racing license, will or has been sold.
PNGI in early February completed the purchase of 123 acres on the west side of Columbus for development of a full-scale casino. Ohio voters in November 2009 approved a constitutional amendment calling for casino gambling in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.
Also pending is action on a plan to install video lottery terminals at the seven Ohio racetracks. The group LetOhioVote.org was successful in pushing the issue to the ballot, but the state has subpoenaed individuals associated with the group to find out who is supporting it financially.
There has been no word on whether LetOhioVote.org has enough certified signatures to get the VLT question on the November ballot. If that effort fails, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland can move ahead with a law passed last year to authorize the Ohio Lottery to run racetrack VLTs.
PNGI already owns the Raceway Park harness track in Toledo, and plans to build the Toledo casino authorized in 2009. Racing industry officials have speculated there’s more to the latest developments than just a purchase of Beulah Park.
Should VLTs be implemented at tracks, the Columbus market conceivably would have the full-scale casino and two racetracks—Beulah Park and the Scioto Downs harness track—with gaming. Scioto Downs is owned by MTR Gaming Group, which clashed with PNGI last year over the casino referendum.
Racing industry sources offered conflicting information. Some said PNGI, if it buys Beulah Park, would maintain racing there. Others said they’ve heard PNGI has a plan to end racing at Beulah Park and move the racing license to Youngstown in far eastern Ohio. A track would have to be constructed there.
Last year, officials from Mahoning County, where Youngstown is located, indicated they were upset their area wasn’t included in the casino referendum.
MTR Gaming Group’s Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia draws heavily from eastern Ohio towns, including Youngstown.
Beulah Park races about 125 days a year. Its current meet extends through early May.