Board OKs Penn National backing out of Lawrence Co. casino project

MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WKBN) – It has been on the drawing board for nearly a dozen years, but the people behind that horse-track and casino in Lawrence County will have a little more time to get their affairs in order.

Investors with Endeka Entertainment want to develop a $225 million complex off U.S. Route 422 in Mahoning Township, just east of the Ohio line. At a hearing Wednesday morning in Harrisburg, members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board agreed to allow Penn National, which owns Hollywood Gaming in Austintown, to back out of the project.

Lawyers for the company told board members that an independent study on the proposed project shows it won’t work for them.

“While there may be disappointment in Penn National’s decision not to proceed, we truly wish the project well,” Penn National counsel Adrian King said.

Penn National announced in early April that they would be pulling out of the project. Endeka has filed a lawsuit against Penn National for misrepresentation. Representatives from Endeka believe Penn National entered into the deal to protect their financial interests in Austintown.

Investors then introduced their new management team, including Philadelphia businessman Joseph Procacci and Illinois-based casino developer Merit Management.

“Based on our own internal review, which is ongoing, Mr. Procacci believes the Endeka project has tremendous economic potential for the people of Lawrence County, for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for the investors of Endeka,” John O’Riordan, lawyer for PHL Local Gaming, said.

“We have operated in environments very similar to this one and we are confident that this project will produce satisfactory returns for all its stakeholders, its investors, the local community and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Peter Ferro of Merit Management said.

Although lawyers for the Gaming Control Board objected, saying Endeka has already had more than enough time to submit its information, members agreed to one last extension, giving the new management group until June 1 to provide all needed information, and ordering Endeka to provide monthly updates on their progress.

Investors now will have until Nov. 20 to submit all of their documents and plans to get their gambling license. 

If it is approved, the Lawrence Downs project will be the seventh and final casino for the state.

The Lawrence Downs application has been pending before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for almost two years.

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