MAHONING TWP., Pa. (WKBN) – Twelve years of effort to bring a horse-racing track and casino to Lawrence County may have been for naught after members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to deny Endeka Entertainment any more time to find investors.
Endeka was asking for another 60-day extension to complete its financing.
The plans were to build the track on 250 acres in Mahoning Township, just east of Coitsville. Although the door is not entirely closed for development, local leaders say they are disappointed by the decision.
“I don’t think anybody realizes how much money and how good of an area that this would have been if this track would have actually come. I mean, it’s unbelievable. I don’t think the people in Lawrence County can fathom how much development and how much money and income that Lawrence County, Mahoning Township would have received for this deal,” said Mahoning Township Supervisor Gary Pezzoulo.
The township did make some investments to help bring the racino to the area.
Since 2004, when the idea first surfaced, there have been a half dozen ownership groups trying to make the project work. Pezzuolo said, had the state approved the project when funding was in place, the racino could have opened six years ago.
“It cost the township roughly about, probably even of $2 million a year, it cost us $12 million ,” Pezzuolo said.
At one point, while faced with having to build a new sewage treatment plant, supervisors in the township built a bigger facility than was needed at the time, just to have enough capacity to handle the project. Pezzuolo says the state even came up with the money to pay for it.
“The original loan that we had was for $10 million,” he said. “The grant money covered most of what got done here. We’ve got roughly $14 million to cover what we did up to this point.”
Although no reasons were given for yesterday’s vote, Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler thinks the Gaming Control Board may have finally lost patience with racino investors. Pezzuolo wonders whether politics played a role.
“If we would have had the support on the state level, I think this project would have been done,” he said.
For now, the State Racing Commission must decide what to do with Endeka’s harness racing permit. Supervisors will be looking for other potential developers for the 250-acre site.