Posted: 6:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

Racino plans detailed by developer


Rendering of the Hollywood Dayton Raceway
Rendering of the Hollywood Dayton Raceway

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Overhead rendering of the Hollywood Dayton Raceway photo
Overhead rendering of the Hollywood Dayton Raceway

By Joanne Huist Smith

Staff Writer

Penn National Gaming, Inc. submitted development plans for the Hollywood Dayton Raceway to city planners Thursday, offering a first look at the proposed racino.

While a major step forward, obstacles still remain in Penn’s path to opening the raceway. The gaming company’s applications to state commissions to relocate Raceway Park from Toledo to Dayton and to become a video lottery sales agent still are pending. And, a hearing date has not been set on an appeal of a court ruling against an anti-gambling organization that is questioning Gov. John Kasich’s authority to allow video lottery terminals at racetracks.

“I have no reason to believe this is not going to happen, but with a project of this size and all the issues it has, seeing shovels in the ground will mean a lot,” Timothy Downs, Dayton’s deputy director of economic development said.

Turner Construction, the project manager, has moved a construction trailer to the site at 4701 Wagner Ford Road. Thursday, Penn National and Turner representatives were in Dayton to meet with about 100 local contractors who want to bid on the project.

“I don’t know what we can to to be more clear that we are committed,” Bob Tenenbaum, spokesman for Penn National said.

The proposed racino is expected to create 1,000 jobs at the racino or related businesses and 1,000 construction jobs throughout the life of the project. The construction costs are estimated at $125 million. The racetrack relocation fee is $75 million and the video lottery terminal operator fee is $50 million.

The development plans show a 5/8 mile harness racetrack, an up to 150,000 square foot gaming building with a simulcast theater for on and off-track wagering, self-bet/full bet mutual service stations and theater and box seating.

The clubhouse will have a sports bar with full-service terraced and concourse dining. Hollywood Dayton also will have a live entertainment stage and miscellaneous food and beverage outlets.

Downs estimated that construction could begin next spring or summer.

“Penn still thinks they’ll open the doors the first or second quarter of 2014,” he said. “I am not aware of anything threatening the process.”

Penn is proposing the development in two phases. The first phase will include the gaming facility and track, associated parking, a paddock barn, and maintenance and storage facilities. The second phase will add a parking garage, expand the gaming facility and install more surface parking.

On Tuesday, the Dayton Plan Board will consider Penn’s application to amend the city’s zoning map to allow for the planned development on 119 acres. The Plan Board meeting is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m. at Dayton City Hall, 101 W. Third Street.

The plan board has three options:

  • table the discussion for further review
  • recommend the City Commission approve
  • reject the development plan

If the board recommends approval, the City Commission – which has the final say on whether the development moves forward – will vote on the plan in January. A go ahead from the commission will give Penn authority to start construction immediately, if the company chooses to do so.

If the proposal is rejected, Penn has 20 days to appeal the plan board decision to the City Commission

The first step in construction will be demolition of the concrete foundation of the former Delphi plant, which can be done during the winter, Downs said. Penn already has applied for a city permit to do that. Environmental assessments, under the supervision of the city, also are underway.

“At this point we don’t know how much or how little must be done environmentally,” Downs said.

The plan calls for providing racino access from the bike path, which runs along the east side of Wagner Ford Road. Bicycle parking will be installed. City staff also wants Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority bus access near the west entrance of the gaming facility.

Other administrative hurdles pending

In June, the gaming company applied to the Ohio State Racing Commission for permission to relocate Raceway Park in Toledo to Dayton. That application is pending.

Administrative rules regarding the relocation of a racetrack were submitted by the racing commission to the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. The committee reviews rules to determine if they exceed the scope of the filing organization’s legal authority, conflict with the intent of law, or conflict with other rules.

Those rules were pulled from the review process by the Racing Commission, so that changes could be made to the language, Larry Wolpert, executive director of the review committee, said. Since 1977, the committee has only invalidated rules before the General Assembly in 14 cases.

“Rather than threatening to invalidate, we like to work with agencies to clear up the language,” Wolpert said.

Robert Schmitz, chairman of the racing commission, said he expects to refile the rules toward the end of the month. If that happens, the joint committee could consider them at a Dec. 10 meeting.

The Ohio Lottery Commission also has not acted on Penn’s application for a video lottery terminal operator’s license for the Dayton facility.

Dayton’s prospects for the racino got a big boost in May when a Franklin County judge threw out a lawsuit challenging the legal framework for operating video lottery terminals in Ohio.

Video lottery terminals are basically slot machines that are regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Timothy Horton ruled that the conservative anti-gambling Ohio Roundtable organization did not have legal standing to bring the suit. Ohio Roundtable appealed that decision. That case also is pending. No hearing date has been set.

Robert Walgate, vice president of Ohio Roundtable, said the organization has no problem with the state’s four casinos that were approved by voters. They do take exception with Gov. John Kaisch’s memos of understanding with racetrack owners allowing them to apply to the Ohio Lottery Commission to become VLT operators.


Hollywood Dayton Raceway

Location: 4701 Wagner Ford Road; 119 acres at southwest corner of Needmore and Wagner Ford roads, Dayton

Construction manager: Turner Construction

Cost: $125 million for construction; $75 million racetrack relocation fee and, $50 million video lottery terminal operator fee

Racetrack: 5/8 mile harness track; no overnight horse boarding

Main building: will not exceed 150,000 square feet

Number of video lottery terminals (slot-like machine): 1,500

Parking spaces: 1,930

Employees: 1,000 jobs at the racino or related businesses; 1,000 construction jobs

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