11/21/2014 4:29PM

Ohio’s Mahoning Valley set to host inaugural meet

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A new era in Ohio racing begins Monday with the first day of live racing at Mahoning Valley, a racino that essentially replaces Beulah Park on the circuit.

Penn National Gaming, the industry giant that spent some $250 million in construction and licensing fees for the facility near Youngstown, will host a variety of ceremonies to commemorate the opening of the new one-mile, dirt-only track.

“There’s real excitement here, and we all feel pretty good about how the racing is going to be,” said racing secretary Ed Vomacka, who was among the key Penn personnel who moved from Beulah to Mahoning Valley, a three-hour drive to the northeast.

The eight-race Monday opener includes five full fields of 12, and Vomacka is confident the four-day-a-week schedule will allow him and his staff to assemble similarly large fields throughout the winter. Mahoning Valley will run 21 dates through Dec. 30 and 64 dates through April 25. With some exceptions, racing will be held Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Vomacka said he has “about 700 horses” in the new stable area, with full capacity being nearly 1,000 stalls. He estimated about 80 percent of the horses are from traditional Ohio barns, with most of those having recently arrived from ThistleDown. Compared to other times of year, Mahoning Valley will not open with severe competition for horses, with Mountaineer Park and all other Ohio tracks being closed in December and beyond.

“The only battle we’re going to have is with the weather,” said Vomacka, referring to the usual struggles associated with wintertime racing.
Purses initially are expected to average about $65,000 per card, although Vomacka said they are projected to increase as the meet unfolds. Opening-day purses are $86,000. A modest stakes schedule begins with five $50,000 races through the end of 2014, with the first, the Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Sprint, set for Saturday.

The video-lottery terminal (VLT) section of the new facility opened Sept. 17, so, “operationally, we’re in pretty good shape as far as working out any kinks,” said Vomacka. “We’ll get things going Monday and see what we have to do to keep our fans and horsemen happy. This new facility fully integrates racing and gaming, so we’re all set.” There are two main wagering areas, most notably a second-floor simulcast teletheater.

The estimated $250 million cost of the facility roughly breaks down this way: $125 million to build the new facility; a $50 million fee for the required VLT license; and a $75 million fee for relocating the racing license formerly held by Beulah, the Columbus-area track that was shuttered May 3 after more than 90 years in business.

These are the wagering takeout rates: win-place-show, 18 percent; pick three and pick four, 15 percent; all other exotics, 22.5 percent.
The three-letter Daily Racing Form and Equibase designation for the new track is MVR.

Carlo Campanella More than 1 year ago
They are only having a racing meet because they must by law in order to have their VLTs. Even with high takeout, racing handle will account for a minor share of yearly profit- the vast majority coming from casino play. If they could have their casino without racing dates, they would. Serious horse players will never be interested in a cheap, Ohio bred racing product and if you can't attract national players into large pick 6 and other exotic pools, their hold is just to cover racing operation costs- they'd be more than excited to break even on racing and let the casino fill their bottom line.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Looks like nobody wants to bet to win anymore; everything has to be pick six, pick four, pick your nose,etc.
Sammy Da Bull More than 1 year ago
Professional gamblers and other large bettors (I.e pick 6 syndicates, pick 4-5 players,etc) don't bet on $2,5000 claimers, races with 8k purses, or exotics with 10k pools, so it doesn't matter what the take out is. No bettor is going to say "geez, I was gonna bet an $800 ticket on this $2,500 ohio bred, non winner of a race in 9 months if they only had a lower take out." And, as far as winter racing-SMART MOVE- you think they can run a spring or summer meet that can compete for handle with Saratoga, Churcill, Del Mar.....and the other top meets in the country? get real, offer it as an option in the summer and they'd have 10,000 win pools if they're lucky!!!!
Tim More than 1 year ago
Wow! They actually put stables on the grounds! Way better than the tin palaces they built for harness racing in Dayton and Miamai Valley- no stalls on the grounds for stabling, every horse has to ship in and out on race day! Big news last week- the paddocks for Monroe just got enclosed! And they added heaters! (see the article at ustrotting for all the laughs between the lines: http://xwebapp.ustrotting.com/absolutenm/templates/article.aspx?articleid=61980&zoneid=113 ) But on the topic at hand- Winter racing in northern Ohio borders on absurd. Most tracks that close to the Arctic Circle should be closed for the monhs of January and February...
raymond More than 1 year ago
It would be fantastic and wonderful venture for Penn to pick up the pieces left behind at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Ma. where there is BIG potential for both Thoroughbred and VLT's to flourish in the near future. Ma. residents have more disposable cash then any other state in the country where a great percentage of this disposable cash will find it's way to Suffolk Downs. Along with 3 Gaming Casinos and 1 Slots facility in the process there is plenty of room for more slots and a few Racinos around the city and state. Suffolk Downs has a very safe surface and a tremendous turf course and the facility has more then enough room to house a slots parlor and entertainment area for public events. The money is just sitting and waiting for someone to come and provide talented and successful horsemen and thoroughbreds to put on the show. May the racing Gods shine their light on Suffolk Downs.
Tim More than 1 year ago
Raymond- I can appreciate your desire for Suffolk Downs to be rescued, been there a handful of times or so when I was living up in New Hampshire for a bit. I hate to see venues with rich histories like Suffolk wither away. Unfortunately, with racing interest in decline, times are hard and Massachusetts is a poster child for blind sightedness and bureaucracy (a redundancy there? They may be taking some lessons from the NYRA). Don't know if you've ever read a couple of books about Suffolk- 'Thirty Tons a Day' by Bill Veeck, and 'Not By a Long Shot' by T. D. Thornton, but they chronicle the widespread and deeply rooted dysfunction that is Massachusetts regulating and politics. The sad truth is that 'gaming' corporations want the easy money and slots are that windfall. They use the racino VLT's to get their foothold, but horse racing is a poor red-headed step child to them; a necessary evil. As for the politicians, they have no interest in horse racing because it's not anything that will lead to them to getting elected or re-elected. They can't be bothered because there is nothing in it for them.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Doomed for failure. First off, why winter racing there? Mostly the problem is the great think tank chose 18% take on WPS betting....so totally the wrong decision. It isn't rocket science...if you want a handle and the public to take notice...start by having the lowest takeout in the land ..not one of the highest. If you lower the takeout, the public will try the product...at 18% no reason to even look at it. True great horse players have no problem betting cheap horses.....it's the high takeout that will leave the horseplayer not even looking their direction.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
As a note - For some weather reason the Greater Youngstown Area is always a bit colder then the rest of the state. Maybe the weather channel folks can explain it, but my years in the Youngstown Area were enough to convince me. Dress warm.
P H More than 1 year ago
Please!! Penn National only cares about the slots. They even said so themselves, link posted below. The people at the top of Penn Gaming are a joke regarding horse racing, and racing in the heart of winter in Northern Ohio!? Canceled days means more money saved for them! No one is going to go once winter starts and cancelled days loom for this place. http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/61134/carlino-were-not-running-public-charity
Russell Rieckenberg More than 1 year ago
Should be no different then Beulah was. They likely don't save a lot of money by cancelling. It's not like they get to keep the purse money, that just gets added to the account and means higher purses later.
Walter More than 1 year ago
15% take on pick 3s & 4s is a great first step. Good luck
Victor Gelsi More than 1 year ago
I guess no one noticed the 18% takeout on WPS at this new track. Chruchill just went to 17 1/2 % For betters to have a fighting chance a rate of 15% is ok.
Russell Rieckenberg More than 1 year ago
Same as it's long been in Ohio. Same as Tdn, same as Belterra, same as Beulah was.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Good luck to all involved in this new enterprise.It's good to see companies willing to put money into racing.
Adam Strominger More than 1 year ago
There would be no racing without slots