AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Year number six is underway at the Mahoning Valley Race Course as Friday marked a new racing season. Eight races were on the card.
The horse racing is coming off a record-setting year for handle, attendance and field size. The racecourse also has a record-breaking number of applicants — there are 988 stalls at the tracks with over 1,850 applied to fill them.
So, expectations remain high.
“We definitely have some hardcore horseplayers, and it’s a nice compliment to the group that wants to be on the gaming floor,” said Mark Lowe of Penn National Gaming.
The 940 VLTs are a year-round attraction at Hollywood Gaming. The racino has become a popular entertainment option, even bringing in concerts.
But land across the street remains available. Developers just haven’t built up around the racino.
“Their dynamic of who they bring in and where the people come from, we really didn’t anticipate a large amount of growth,” said Austintown Trustee Jim Davis.
Hollywood Gaming attracts people who play the games, watch the races or maybe grab a light snack then go home.
Austintown’s growth has been controlled in the neighborhood.
“I think some people had some unreal expectations as to land value and things of that nature. We can’t control that” Lowe said.
Private developers have been cautious building around the $250 million development, even though it’s located near a busy Interstate 80.
Growth in Niles and Boardman have followed retail, and if Austintown gets that, the area could benefit.
“I don’t know if we want to see anything specific, I just think more development, anything like that is good,” Lowe said.
“Austintown is one retail establishment away from that becoming our big boom,” Davis said.
Austintown recognizes Hollywood Gaming has been a good neighbor, working with police, fire and local charities.
On Saturday, all five horse races will include all Ohio-bred horses with each race having a purse of $150,000. Because it will be “Pink-Out Day,” some of the proceeds will go to help raise money for breast cancer awareness.