Proposed Lawrence County racetrack/casino lines up new investors
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For Valley View Downs, it may be the first glimmer of light in what's been a 10-year-old tunnel.
American Harness Tracks, the Pittsburgh company hoping to build a racetrack and casino in Lawrence County, is turning to Philadelphia in its effort to raise the cash needed to bring the long-delayed Valley View Downs project into being.
The two biggest names are familiar to those who have followed the gaming scene on the east side of the state for the last decade -- insurance executive Manuel "Manny" Stamatakis was an investor in the failed downtown Philadelphia Foxwoods casino proposal, as was Edward "Ed" Snider, who is the chairman of Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers.
Both also were investors in the defunct Philadelphia Trotters and Pacers Inc., which had hoped to secure a harness racing license in Pennsylvania. That effort failed, as well, in 2004, while the Foxwoods casino died a slower death, finally succumbing in 2011, when the state Gaming Control Board revoked Foxwoods' casino license because of construction delays.
Other Philadelphia-area investors are part of the newly recruited group, as well.
Officials from American Harness Tracks plan to reveal the new investors at today's 11 a.m. meeting of the state Harness Racing Commission, which is convening at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs racetrack casino.
Mr. Stamatakis and Mr. Snider are both wealthy, and would seem to have the means to help American Harness Tracks build its racetrack and casino, at one time a proposed $450 million project, though that figure may be scaled back in light of new competition from racetracks and casinos across the border, in Ohio.
"This is a very positive step," said Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler. "If this thing comes to fruition, they will be the second largest employer in Lawrence County."
Valley View Downs has been on the drawing board for a decade -- originally, the Shick family's Ambrosia Enterprises of Lawrence County had planned for a racetrack near New Castle, while Centaur Inc., an Indianapolis gaming and racetrack operator, wanted to build a track to the south, in Beaver County.
In 2007, the two competing parties compromised, which allowed Centaur to keep the racetrack project and apply for a harness racing license, so long as it was built in Lawrence County.
But Centaur and Valley View Downs soon filed for bankruptcy protection, and American Harness Tracks bought the Valley View Downs project out of a bankruptcy auction in 2010.
Since then, American Harness has reshuffled its investor and ownership group, trying to bring on new investors with the financial wherewithal to reanimate the project.
First Published June 28, 2012 11:00 am