After months of negotiations that held up regulatory approval, the Ohio State Racing Commission May 1 signed off on plans for River Downs to move its 2013 live racing dates to Beulah Park.
The OSRC also approved plans by Penn National Gaming Inc. to relocate Beulah Park, which is near Columbus, to the Youngstown area, and Raceway Park in Toledo to Dayton. The OSRC had repeatedly withheld approval because it wasn't satisfied with racetrack seating plans at both tracks.
PNGI vice president of racing Chris McErlean confirmed the meet transfer was approved by the OSRC. The racing commission was waiting for PNGI and the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to agree on certain aspects of the PNGI plan to relocate Beulah Park to capitalize on video lottery terminals.
Among the issues were racing dates for next year and the number of stalls to be built at the proposed Hollywood Mahoning Valley Race Course.
"We agreed on racing dates for 2014, and we agreed to waive the condition on relocation of stalls," McErlean said. "That was not a condition of this agreement."
"We're continuing to work with (PNGI)," Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said. "We feel strongly about having an adequate number of stalls and dormatories, which are absolutely necessary to move Ohio racing forward."
Beulah Park will offer 65 days of live racing from May 19-Sept. 23 before it begins its regular fall meet. It will inherit many of the Ohio-bred dirt stakes traditionally held at River Downs.
River Downs, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, was leveled earlier this year to make way for a new racetrack gaming facility. It is expected to open in 2014.
Basler noted the Beulah Park races will be paid for by the River Downs purse account. Purses will be about 10% higher than they were at River Downs last year, he said.
"We're happy to finally get this done so horsemen can make plans," Basler said.
The OSRC approved what McErlean called a "phased-in" approach at the proposed racetracks. Seating will be added to the original construction plans, with more in the works if business warrants.
PNGI had stalled construction of both facilities pending OSRC approval.
"We're hoping to restart construction in the near future," McErlean said.