Penn National formally requests to relocate racetracks

“I don’t think there is anything to be but excited,” standardbred racehorse owner Tom Gray said. “I think Ohio is going to be the heart of harness racing once again.”

Penn National Gaming Inc. on June 30 filed for permission with the Ohio State Racing Commission to relocate racetracks from Columbus and Toledo to Austintown and Dayton, respectively. The slot-equipped Dayton racetrack will encompass 125 acres on the site of a former Delphi automotive plant near Wagner Ford and Needmore roads.

In addition to up to 1,500 slot machines per track, both new properties will feature restaurants and bars.

“We are hopeful we can receive state approval in a timely manner, allowing us to break ground this fall on the new facilities in the Mahoning Valley and in Dayton,” Tim Wilmott, president and COO of Penn National Gaming, said.

Shelley Dickstein, Dayton’s assistant city manager for strategic development, said Penn has been meeting with city staff to discuss particulars of the development plan such as zoning issues, wellfield protection and traffic enhancements long with the design of the facility.

“Everything seems to be moving forward,” Dickstein said.

Penn also filed with the Ohio Lottery Commission for video lottery sales agent licenses for its Ohio racetracks.

“Filing for VLT licenses and formally requesting that the Racing Commission approve our relocation plans is another major step forward for these two significant economic development projects,” Wilmott said.

The VLT license applications must go through administrative reviews, which includes criminal and financial background checks of the applicant.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a few months,” Danielle Frizzi-Babb, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery Commission said.

Under terms of a memorandum of understanding with Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office, Penn National has agreed to pay, over time, a $75 million relocation fee for each racetrack, in addition to the $50 million VLT license fee per track.

Robert Schmitz, chairman of the state racing commission, said the change in rules reflecting the relocation fee likely will be considered by the commission at a July 19 meeting.

The new rules then come under review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), which includes members from the Ohio House and Senate, to determine if they exceed the scope of the filing organization’s legal authority, conflict with the intent of law, or conflict with another rule of the same agency or a different rule-making agency.

“I can’t do anything until the rule is effective,” Schmitz said, adding JCARR reviews takes 75 to 90 days. “Once the rule is effective, we’ll probably move expeditiously.”

Owners of a second racino being planned approximately 30 miles from the Dayton track near Monroe in Warren County, said they are not deterred by the close proximity of Penn’s planned attraction.

Miami Valley Gaming and Racing, LLC., a joint venture of Delaware North Companies Gaming and Entertainment and Churchill Downs Inc., want to build a $255 million racetrack near the intersection of Ohio 63 and Union Road in Turtlecreek Twp. after they purchase the gaming license from the Lebanon Raceway.

“We are proud to be building off Lebanon Raceway’s more than 60-year tradition of harness racing in Southwestern Ohio, and are moving forward with a new gaming and raceway facility along the I-75 corridor,” the company said in a statement.

Justin McClellan contributed to this report. Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2362 or

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