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Racing Commission doesn’t like plan for Dayton racetrack

The Ohio State Racing Commission does not like Penn National Gaming’s plan for a racino in Dayton saying that it places more emphasis on video lottery gambling than watching live horse races.

Penn National is asking permission from the commission to move Raceway Park in Toledo to Dayton and Beulah Park in Grove City to Austintown. The company also is awaiting approval from the Ohio Lottery Commission to put 1,500 video lottery terminals at the Dayton racino and 1,000 VLTs at the Austintown facility near Youngstown.

“I find what you presented inadequate,” Racing Commission Chairman Robert Schmitz told Penn National officials after their hour-long presentation on Tuesday in Columbus. “I don’t think it moves racing forward in this state.”

Penn National’s planned racino on the site of a former Delphi plant on Wagner Ford Road in north Dayton calls for a 5/8th-of-a-mile harness race track, no grooms quarters or permanent barns and 120 horse stalls.

Racing commissioners complained that the $125 million harness track in Dayton and the $125 million thoroughbred track in Austintown will each seat only a few hundred spectators for the horse races. “It seems very small to me,” commented Commissioner Willaim Koester. Commissioners asked Penn National to return next week with revised plans for additional seating for more racing fans.

Penn National Vice President Chris McErlean repeatedly told commissioners that the track design is realistic given the trends in horse racing. “Racing is very challenged now in terms of popularity and in terms of the ability to turn people out,” McErlean said.

Plans call for beginning construction in April and opening by June 2014, McErlean said.

Schmitz said the Racing Commission will meet again March 20 to consider the moves. If a decision isn’t reached March 20, the commission will meet again in March to give Penn National an answer, he said.

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