Austintown racetrack and casino inching it's way towards reality - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Austintown racetrack and casino inching it's way towards reality

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AUSTINTOWN, Ohio - The state legislature's approval of Ohio's new gambling bill moves the finish line for bringing a race track and casino to Austintown a little closer.

The gambling bill lays out the rules and regulations for casino's and video slot machines at Ohio racetracks. It passed the legislature after a hard fought compromise was reached that will direct additional money to local governments.

It means Austintown would get two million dollars over two years.

Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis says it's funding they need to prepare Austintown for the influx of people it will attract. "We want to make sure our roads are prepared, fire is prepared, police are prepared and the way we needed to do that was to get some money from the state legislature," Davis said.

The bill also includes a provision to negotiate an additional $500,000 per year to the local communities after the two years.

The developer of the Austintown racino, Penn National Gaming, calls it a significant step forward.

"It was one of the hurdles that was holding up progress. That hurdle has been cleared. There are still some others," said Bob Tennenbaum from Penn National Gaming.

Those other hurdles include a lawsuit challenging video slot machines at racetracks and approval by the racing commission for Penn National to transfer its permit from Columbus to Austintown.

State Representative Ron Gerberry is hoping the project continues on the fast track. "I think it's good for the Mahoning Valley and I'm just really excited about it," Gerberry said.

The Penn National spokesman is not ready to predict when actual work at the Austintown site might begin. "It's still too early to set a groundbreaking date. I think what's significant is that we remain absolutely committed to this project," Tennenbaum said.

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