01/26/2012 11:44AM

Scioto Downs harness track gets Ohio slots license


Scioto Downs, a Columbus, Ohio, harness track owned by MTR Gaming, was granted a temporary slot-machine license on Wednesday by the Ohio Lottery and plans to open a casino by June.

The license was awarded after Scioto submitted a $10 million licensing fee to the lottery, which was given the authority to grant casino licenses to seven state racetracks by an executive order issued by Gov. Ted Strickland last year. Opponents of gambling have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the order.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the executive order, Scioto is the only track in Ohio that has sought a casino license. The facility, under construction since December, will house 2,125 slot machines, Scioto officials have said. Before the casino can open, Scioto will need to submit an additional licensing fee of $15 million. Another $25 million will be due one year after the casino opens.

If Strickland’s order survives the court challenge, Scioto’s casino could be the first of as many as 11 casinos planned for the state. Voters in Ohio approved a referendum in 2009 that granted two companies, including Penn National Gaming Inc., the rights to open four free-standing casinos in the state’s four largest cities. Those casinos are currently under construction.

Penn National also owns a Columbus-area Thoroughbred track, Beulah Park. The company is seeking approval to move the track from Columbus to Dayton so that it will not compete with the casino it is building in Columbus.