DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A gambling company is almost ready to start laying the foundation for a new horse racing track on the site of a shuttered auto plant in southwest Ohio, but it still faces some regulatory hurdles.
Penn National Gaming Inc. is in the middle of demolition and environmental remediation now and could start construction in April, if the weather cooperates.
The company, which operates two of the state's new casinos in Columbus and Toledo, plans to open Hollywood Slots at Dayton Raceway in 2014.
"We're delighted to see the process moving forward," Penn National spokesman Robert Tenenbaum said.
First, the company needs the state to sign off on moving Raceway Park from Toledo to Dayton, and it also needs approval to become a video lottery sales agent, The Dayton Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/TV25eA).
Penn National's plan is to move Raceway Park out of Toledo and relocate Beulah Park's thoroughbred racing from suburban Columbus to just outside Youngstown, where it will build a new track near the Ohio Turnpike.
Moving both tracks will reduce the competition for Penn National's new casinos in Columbus and Toledo. It plans to spend at least $300 million on the two new tracks, which it says would create thousands of temporary construction jobs along with permanent jobs at the two sites.
Robert Schmitz, chairman of the racing commission, said Penn's relocation application to move the Toledo track could be put to a vote in March. The relocation fee is $75 million for each racetrack.
After that vote, the Ohio Lottery Commission is expected to make a decision on Penn National's request to become a video lottery sales agent, said Danielle Frizzy Babb, spokeswoman for the lottery commission.
Another hurdle facing the plan is a lawsuit filed by gambling opponents that is challenging whether the state can allow video slots at the horse tracks without going before the voters.
A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 17 on an appeal of a court ruling that went against the anti-gambling group Ohio Roundtable.
A central Ohio judge in May dismissed a lawsuit from the antigambling policy group, saying did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit against Gov. John Kasich and others.
Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com