Proposed Dayton track would be 1st built since 1959

DAYTON — Today’s expected announcement by Penn National Gaming that it plans to build a racetrack in Dayton is a setback for Lebanon Raceway operators who tried for months to relocate the harness track to Montgomery County.

If built, the Dayton facility would be the first new racetrack in Ohio since 1959, according to John Izzo, deputy director of the state Racing Commission.

Penn National is to make a proposal to the commission today to move operations at Beulah Park near Columbus to a site at Wagner Ford and Needmore roads in Dayton, about a mile east of Interstate 75.

Penn also announced plans Wednesday to move Raceway Park in Toledo to Youngstown.

Lebanon Raceway co-operator John Carlo said he believes a license transfer from Penn’s Beulah Park racetrack to Dayton violates the Ohio Revised Code. The Carlo family, along with owners of Miami Valley Trotting, operate Lebanon Raceway through a sublease with the Warren County Fair Board.

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“It’s in the Ohio Revised Code that a new track cannot be within 50 miles of an existing facility, so we will have to see what the commission says,” Carlo said. “Other than that, I, like everyone else, am interested to see what the plan is.”

Penn National’s proposed Dayton site is less than 40 miles from Lebanon.

Izzo said Carlo is confused and said there is nothing in the ORC that would prevent a racetrack from being built at the site.

The Lebanon operators have tried to get racing operations moved to Montgomery County and visited numerous locations, including a site in Moraine and the Austin Interchange area.

The group also looked at the Delphi site Penn National has settled on.

Indiana Metals LLC of Chicago purchased the Delphi property last summer for $3.1 million and is still listed as the property owner, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s web site.

The Lebanon Raceway plan to relocate, just like Penn National’s, hinged on being allowed to install video slots.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, proposed installing slot machines at Ohio’s racetracks in 2009 and received legislature approval. He said at the time that slots would raise $933 million, but a legal challenge by a group called LetOhioVote successfully argued to the Ohio Supreme Court that the issue should be put before voters.

In November 2009, voters approved casinos that are now being developed in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Penn will run casino operations in Columbus and Toledo.

But the legal challenge related to Strickland’s slot proposal remains unresolved. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said in mid-November he wants to study video slots at racetracks. “The governor is still talking to people and gathering information,” Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols said Wednesday. “He wants to look at how (video slots) will intertwine with casinos.”

Penn National operates 19 casinos, seven racetracks and six off-track wagering sites. Penn operates the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., currently the closest casino to Dayton.

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