The Lawrence Downs Project: Doomed to fail
Private-sector unwillingness to go it alone is a warning about a development project's viability that no governmental entity should ignore — especially when the project is as risky as the proposed Lawrence Downs Casino & Racing Resort.
Yet Dan Vogler, chairman of the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners, says his county's Industrial Development Authority has voted to sell $50 million in taxable bonds to assist the $225 million harness track and casino project planned for Mahoning. He says bondholders, not taxpayers, would bear the bonds' risk; the county wouldn't guarantee them, but they'd be repaid from its “local share assessment” of the casino's take.
Even if taxpayers wouldn't end up on the hook, it's less than promising. Without the bond money, Penn National Gaming “would not be involved in this project,” according to a senior vice president. And incredibly, the company maintains Lawrence Downs wouldn't suffer competitively from another racetrack and casino it's building just 20 miles away, in Youngstown, Ohio — or from Washington County's Meadows “racino” (built without public money) and Erie, Pittsburgh and Nemacolin Woodlands casinos.
“It's a pretty speculative project given that there is such a cluster of casinos already in the region,” says a Fitch Ratings analyst. Yet, incredibly, backers project 2 million annual visitors.
Lawrence Downs has its harness-racing license. But for all these reasons, the Gaming Control Board should reject its casino-license application. It's a crapshoot that's a bad bet.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Saturday essay: The trolley bus
- Halloween 2014: Have fun but be safe
- For U.S. House, Pa.: Re-elect Rothfus, Shuster, Kelly & Barletta
- For Ohio governor: Re-elect John Kasich
- Monsour’s legacy: A bitter pill