Group awarded license for harness track in Lawrence County
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HARRISBURG -- Lawrence County is a step closer to getting a $400 million harness racing track and casino with slots and table games.
The state Harness Racing Commission, after several months of study, has granted American Harness Tracks a racing license, said commission spokeswoman Samantha Krepps.
Now the group will apply to the state Gaming Control Board for a gaming license, a process that likely will take at least six more months. The board already held one hearing in Lawrence County three years ago to get public sentiment on the issue, but likely will hold another one since so much time has elapsed, officials said.
"This is a great day for AHT and the people of Lawrence County and the Mahoning Valley," said Joseph Canfora, a New Castle native who heads Chicago-based Merit Management Group, which will develop and manage the so-called "racino."
It already has casinos in 13 states and Latin America.
"We've taken another step toward completing a project that will create jobs," he added. "We look forward to submitting a compelling application to the Gaming Control Board in the immediate future."
Among the backers of AHT are Pittsburgh lawyer Charles Knoll, son of the late Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. Lawrence County officials are big supporters of the proposed track/casino, expecting it to create 1,000 to 1,500 new jobs.
The state's 2004 slots law authorizes seven racetrack/casinos, five stand-alone casinos and two smaller resort casinos. Six track/casinos are now in operation, including The Meadows in Washington County and Presque Isle Downs in Erie.
The long-delayed Lawrence County project will be the seventh and final track/casino in the state.
First Published November 8, 2011 2:51 pm