04/18/2013 11:04AM

Penn National statement puts Beulah Park relocation in doubt

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Penn National Gaming Inc., the owner of 22 casinos and nine racetracks across the United States, said Thursday in a release accompanying financial statements that it will not go ahead with plans to relocate Beulah Park, which is in Columbus, Ohio, if the state’s racing commission holds the company to a demand to increase the size of the track’s grandstand.

The release stated that the company is in “active dialog” with the state racing commission over the commission’s demand that Penn National add 650 grandstand seats to its plans for a facility in Mahoning Valley, near the border with Pennsylvania, that would use Beulah’s racing license for a new casino and racetrack. But the company also said that that its blueprints for the new track “reflect current market demand” and that it does not intend to go forward with the relocation of Beulah and a harness track in the state facing similar demands unless the commission backs down.

“We remain committed to achieving reasonable returns on invested capital on these projects and do not currently expect to proceed if the Ohio State Racing Commission requires extraneous expenditures on portions of the facility that detract from this objective,” the release stated.

The statement by Penn National Gaming is the latest indication that horse racing is taking a back seat in Ohio to the casino plans of racetrack owners that are designed to capitalize on the state’s authorization of slot machines in 2011 at Ohio’s seven racetracks.

Little more than a blip on the national racing radar, Ohio’s racing industry has been moribund for years, but the 2011 legalization of slots at the state’s racetracks generated hopes among horsemen that they would soon be competing for outsized purses subsidized by slot-machine revenue. However, only two racetracks – Scioto Downs in Columbus, a harness track, and Thistledown outside Cleveland – have opened casinos, as many of the rest of the tracks contemplate relocations to areas in the state that would best serve casino patrons.

The racing commission has taken issue with some of these plans, including Penn National’s, with demands that the tracks add seating for horse racing patrons in the grandstands affixed to the planned casinos. On Tuesday, the owners of the harness track Lebanon Raceway, which includes Churchill Downs Inc., agreed to increase the racetrack seating in the blueprints for its relocated racino, but Penn National has resisted the commission’s calls.

No racetrack in Ohio currently has an agreement with either Standardbred or Thoroughbred horsemen on subsidies from the slot machines. State law requires that the track owners distribute a minimum of 9 percent of slot-machine revenue to horsemen.

steve More than 1 year ago
If Penn Gaming wants to abandoned a casino they have already cleared the ground for,done the drainage and paid for the license over 650 seats then they aren't as smart as some in this posting think they are.What is 650 seats to a multi million dollar deal such as this?Their only concern is it will hold up their projected April 2014 opening of the casino,the horse racing won't start until October I think.Bottom line is they just don't like being told they have to do this or that especially when it comes to the horses.It is no secret that if the state legislatures told casinos that they could operate without a racetrack there wouldn't be one racetrack around any of them.It's about time some racing commission has stood up to these kind of folks,for that I commend the OHC.Take it from someone who has been around these racinos for more than 10 years,I've seen how they operate and know the only interest they have is how much they can make off the public,and that includes the horsemen as well.For example,where I am currently at they put in PENNY machines a few years ago.That told me one thing,they want your last PENNY!!!!
The_Whiz More than 1 year ago
you nay sayers are as ill informed as you are ignorant - horse racing is not perfect but it creates and sustains many more jobs than any room full of one are mechanical bandits. Is horse racing perfect? No and as long as humans are involved it won't be - But Slot machines can be set to reduce payoffs to the casinos liking and if they get caught they pay a fine and all their customers get screwed. Learn the facts about Penn Gaming, CDI and the rest of the conglomerate crooks before you start running down horse racing.
charles b More than 1 year ago
A real pity what has happened to thoroughbred racing. I go back over fifty years in the game. I visited Lincoln Downs, Rockingham Park, Narragansett, Garden State, La Mesa Park, Tropical Park, Sportsman's Park Aksarben, Tanforan and Bay Meadows. Like the federal government, racetracks and states have drained the consumer with their increased take and give nothing back in return.
jttf More than 1 year ago
casinos are run by much smarter people than horse racing is. they treat the public much better. casinos are just trying to get their foot in the door before they close the high takeout tracks. who can you trust more, a slot machine or a horse on meds/peds ?
a More than 1 year ago
Must be written by someone who works for a casino. and has no clue about real horse racing families. Go back put on your chapstick & pucker up. Penn national wants to say thank you.
Russell More than 1 year ago
I know many casino gamblers that don't trust the slot machines, but gamblers seem to be a very cynical bunch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Save Beulah...it is a diamond in the rough...don't close it down and move just to get casino patrons...there has been racing in Columbus for 70 years or more...it will be a shame if it goes...but I am out of touch with reality...racing is dying....and casinos are only fools gold...as soon as they get the state's hooked on their tax revenue they will dump the horses...
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Ohio racing shouldn't exist, in any form, at any location. None of their tracks have offered a product worthy of support for years. The last time I saw the on-track handle for Beulah, it was less than $10,000 for an 8 race card. That doesn't pay for one security guard and two people working the line. Turfway, just over the river, should probably be next.
a More than 1 year ago
The Ohio racing commission is right. Penn national doesn't care about the racing only the slots. I live near a track they own that has slots. The race track has gone down and horses are getting hurt all the time due to the condition of the track. Penn national is not all they cracked up tobe.
joseph More than 1 year ago
Does anyone actually sit down in a race track grandstand anymore? Penn should hold their ground, that demand is a waste of seats.