The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission gave their blessing to a change in ownership and license transfer that is a key first step in bringing Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort near New Castle to fruition. Plans for the property have been in the works for more than 10 years with Penn National Gaming pulling out their 1/3 share in the $225 million project about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh in May.

A group headed up by Joseph Procacci of Philadelphia bought out another group who had controlled the state’s sole remaining harness racing license for the property since 2013. The deal basically reforms the company known as Endeka Entertainment. If a full license is granted, construction could start within a year and would be completed by September 21, 2018. No construction can begin before a license is granted.

If current plans for the development remain the same throughout construction, Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort will feature live harness racing, as many 1,500 slot machines, and about 50 live table games. Several food and beverage venues are also planned for the property that would have parking for up to 2,000 vehicles.

Penn National stated that the market was too soft in the area to justify their continued involvement, but many analysts disregard saturation based on superior marketing and amenities. A small and more flexible company can also move in real time more nimbly than some corporate entities. The nearest competition to Lawrence Downs would be Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, (Austintown) Ohio, about 20 miles away.