If regulators in Pennsylvania adhere to recently imposed deadlines it could mean death for a proposed Lawrence County racetrack, according to an investor believed to have saved the project.
The project, to be built outside of New Castle, was purchased by 88-year old Joseph Procacci of Chery Hill, New Jersey in September. Procacci, who owns a Philadelphia-based produce distribution company, paid an undisclosed amount to the former owners of the project, Endeka, a group of Philadelphia businessmen. Procacci is the proposed Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort’s main financial backer.
In his quest for a casino license, Procacci met a November 20 filing deadline with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. His racing-license transfer was approved in October by the state Harness Racing Commission, which now consists of one member, down from three. In order to operate Lawrence Downs, which Procacci has said can be built for $210 million, both licenses are required. That estimate includes the casino license’s $50 million bond. However, if Harness Racing Commissioner Jonathan Newman fails to rescind stringent guidelines he imposed, the bond will likely be revoked and the project terminated by Procacci, according to John O’Riordan, Procacci’s attorney. A motion for reconsideration was filed on November 25. The commission has until Christmas to make a decision on the appeal.
In October Harness Racing Commissioner Jonathan Newman said failure to secure a casino license or meet any deadline would result in losing the racing license. Deadlines, one of which include that the project should be competed and hosting its first live-betting race by October 2017, are “absolutely unworkable and untenable,” due to the harness track and gaming license reliance on the other for financing, according to O’Riordan.
While never having owned a casino, Procacci was a finalist for the second casino Philadelphia granted more than a year ago, and the sixth investor to attempt to complete the current project. There is no timetable for the decision on the license, however, many believe that due to Procacci and his team’s familiarity with the Gaming Control Board the process will move more quickly.
Newman’s deadlines fail to account for possible appeals by competing casinos, which could include The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County, Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, or Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Any of which could tie things up for more than a year, according to O’Riordan. The attorney added if deadlines are missed and the project lost the state would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and potentially 1,000 casino and construction jobs in Lawrence County, as well as a $100 million plus, economic impact.