A plan to build a new one-mile harness racing track and casino in western Pennsylvania is seemingly dead after the state’s seven-member regulator voted unanimously to deny a gaming license application made by Endeka Entertainment.
According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, Endeka Entertainment, which holds a harness racing license for the Lawrence Downs facility in Lawrence County, wanted to spend $205 million in order to transform the 250-acre site into the Lawrence Downs Casino And Racing Resort complete with a new racetrack, three restaurants and a casino offering 1,500 slots and 38 table games.
In its denial, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board declared that the applicant would only have about $140 million left after paying state licensing fees while noting that some casinos in the region had cost around $500 million to construct.
The newspaper revealed that competition also played a part in the Wednesday decision with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board mentioning already operating casinos in the west of the state including Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and Erie’s Presque Isle Downs And Casino.
“From our standpoint, [Endeka Entertainment] is no longer an applicant,” Doug Harbach, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The project for Mahoning Township near the city of New Castle was first proposed in 2004 and lauded as a way of creating up to 600 new jobs. In support, local officials subsequently spent $10 million on a water treatment facility and other developments for the site although Vito Yeropoli, Chairman for the Mahoning Township Supervisors, told the newspaper that they are now struggling to repay this debt.
The plan subsequently passed through the hands of six different investment groups before Endeka Entertainment was purchased last year by Procacci Local Gaming, which is owned by Philadelphia-based magnate Joseph Procacci and contributed a $50 million bond for the project. The project was further delayed in March of 2015 when a partnership between the developer and Penn National Gaming fell apart with the casino operator citing declining market conditions in the regional casino industry.
“We fought the good fight and we tried our best,” Dan Vogler, Chairman for the Lawrence County Commissioners, told the newspaper. “I have respect for the [Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board]. They did not take this issue lightly.”