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Dayton Could Get Large Racino Payment Soon

hollywood gaming racino at dayton raceway casino
Jerry Kenney

  The city of Dayton could get an injection of extra cash this year from the new racino, but the owners of Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway aren’t happy about having to pay.

A dispute over payments goes back to the original law allowingracinos, passed in 2011: it said Dayton and Austintown Township in northeast Ohio should each get $500,000 a year for hosting a relocated racetrack, but the law was vague about who pays that money, the state or the company that owns the racinos, Penn Gaming.

The state and Penn Gaming have been in negotiations, which is what the original law called for, but they haven’t been able to come to an agreement, and the first payments are supposed to go out by the end of 2014.

Two state senators, including Bill Beagle of Tipp City, are trying to clarify. Beagle worked with Sen. Joe Schiavoni to tack a provision onto House Bill 494 that would have the state and Penn Gaming split the payments half and half for the next three years. Another strange part about the original bill is that it doesn't specify an end date for the yearly payments; Beagle says agreeing to split the payments for three years was a way to avoid endless litigation from either side over whose obligation this is.

Penn Gaming is calling the payments a special new tax, and says it’s already paying tens of millions into a relocation fund. Penn Gaming believes the $500,000 should come from that fund, rather than being treated as an additional payment.

In a statement, the company says “we're baffled by the Senate’s action, and we are beyond dismayed at having been singled out yet again for another money grab."

Meanwhile, Governor Kasich's office has said the obligation is on Penn Gaming. Senator Beagle says he just knows Dayton is supposed to see the cash by year’s end, and splitting it down the middle seemed fair.

“We were at an impasse and yet we had a deadline coming up,” Beagle said. “While we hope that the parties can work something out we’d like to help solve the problem and avoid litigation.”

The house could vote on the bill with that new provision when it reconvenes Wednesday. Bob Tenenbaum with Penn Gaming says the company won’t rule out legal action if the legislature tries to force it to pay.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.

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