06/22/2010 11:00PM

Ohio approves sales of Beulah, Thistledown

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The Ohio State Racing Commission on Wednesday approved the sales of two Thoroughbred racetracks in the state to two experienced casino operators who also have other stakes in racetracks.

Penn National Gaming Inc.'s acquisition of Beulah Park near Columbus and Harrah's Entertainment's agreement to buy Thistledown racetrack near Cleveland were both approved at the Wednesday meeting, in votes that are typically conducted any time a racetrack changes hands in order to satisfy licensing requirements.

Penn National, a big casino operator which already owns and operates Penn National racetrack in Grantville, Pennsylvania, and the harness track Raceway Park in Toledo, reached the deal to buy Beulah for an undisclosed price in March from its principal owner, Charles Ruma. Penn also received the right late last year to operate two free-standing casinos in Ohio in a statewide referendum.

Harrah's purchased Thistledown from MI Developments in May for a price of $43 million. The casino company already owns and operates Louisiana Downs and has a part interest in Turfway Park in Kentucky just south of Cincinnati.

A November referendum in Ohio will ask voters whether slot machines should be legalized at racetracks.