Pa. company makes deal to move 2 Ohio horse tracks

JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A gambling company building casinos in Toledo and Columbus will pay the state $150 million so that it can move its horse racing tracks out of those areas and reduce the competition for customers.

Penn National Gaming Inc. plans to relocate its horse tracks to new sites it will build near Youngstown and in Dayton.

The deal, announced Friday, also requires Penn National to pay the state about one-third of the profits from video slot machines that it wants to put in the new horse tracks. The company also must pay a $50 million license fee for the video gambling machines at each track.

The agreement hinges on whether state lawmakers will give their approval to allowing video lottery machines at all the state's horse tracks. A bill allowing the machines already has cleared the Ohio House. Penn National must secure agreements with the organization that represents horse owners, breeders and trainers.

The biggest hurdle could be a lawsuit filed by gambling opponents who are challenging whether the state can allow video slots without going before the voters.

Penn National, based in Wyomissing, Pa., says it owns and operates 19 casinos in the United States and Canada. It plans to spend at least $300 million on the two new tracks, which it says would create thousands of temporary construction jobs along with permanent jobs at the two sites.

The two new tracks would go to areas of Ohio that have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years.

The Toledo track is moving 130 miles south to Dayton. The Columbus track is moving 150 miles northeast to the Youngstown area.

Dayton has been hit hard by auto job losses. The track there would be built on the site of a shuttered Delphi Automotive plant. The horse track near Youngstown would be built on vacant land in Austintown, just south of the Ohio Turnpike.

Ohio's horseracing industry has been in decline in recent years, losing customers and money to nearby states with casinos and racetracks with slots or casino gambling. That's why Ohio tracks have been pushing for video slots.

Ohio voters in 2009 approved casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.