The future of the Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort project outside of Pittsburgh is again in doubt, according to a report by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The problems for Lawrence Downs
Joseph Procacci, the main investor in Lawrence Downs, has said through his attorney, John O’Riordan, that his plans for the casino and track could be scuttled. From the Trib-Review:
Procacci likely will revoke that bond and end the project if Harness Racing Commissioner Jonathan Newman does not rescind stringent deadlines he imposed, O’Riordan said. They filed a motion for reconsideration Nov. 25.
When setting the conditions in October, Newman said failing to meet any deadline or to secure a casino license would result in loss of the racing license.
Among the deadlines put in place? The first race at Lawrence Downs must be hosted by October of 2017. Seeing as the project is still not close to having ground broken, getting the track complete in less than two years seems like an unlikely timeframe.
The Trib-Review also noted that “losing the project would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue,” according to O’Riordan. Procacci is the sixth investor to attempt to complete a racino in Lawrence County since 2004, the T-R reported.
The appeal is expected to be considered before the end of the year.
The lay of the land in Western PA for gambling
Lawrence Downs, if and when it is completed, would become the second racino and fourth overall gambling establishment in that part of Pennsylvania — fifth if you count Presque Isle Downs and Casino near Erie.
There have been some concerns about market saturation for gaming in that part of the state; that’s part of the reason why Penn National reportedly backed out of plans to develop Lawrence Downs.
Given the problems over the past decade with bringing Lawrence Downs to fruition, it’s fair to wonder if Procacci is truly the last hope for getting the project done.
Racino issues come amid possible giant gaming expansion in PA
As the Lawrence Downs racino faces an uncertain future, a possible gambling expansion could drastically change the landscape in Pennsylvania.
A bill that once was simply an online poker and gambling regulation bill has been turned into a catch-all expansion bill that recently passed a House committee vote. That bill would, as written, make a number of changes to state gaming law. For example:
- Racinos could offer slot machines at up to four off-track betting locations.
- Airports could add slots if partnered with casinos.
- Liquor service could be offered around the clock at casinos, with an additional fee.
The desire to implement these and other gaming expansions — and the impetus to actually get Lawrence Downs up and running — are both open questions at this point.