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Penn National pays $2.5M for property, site of new casino in East Toledo

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    The Toledo casino will have the latest in slot machines and table games, including blackjack and roulette, and a small number of poker tables.

  • Penn-National-pays-2-5M-for-property-site-of-new-casino-in-East-Toledo-2

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Penn National Gaming Inc. has completed the purchase of 44 acres in East Toledo on which it plans to have a $250 million casino operating in late 2012.

The company's announcement was made yesterday, though the sale closed Dec. 23, according to the Lucas County auditor's database.

"We're very excited to get under way and get shovels in the ground and move forward as soon as possible," Eric Schippers, Penn National senior vice president, said.

The company also announced that it added a Toledo attorney, Richard Mitchell, and a former mayoral chief of staff, Jay Black, Jr., to its "Toledo team."

Penn National of Wyomissing, Pa., paid $2.5 million for two parcels - 37 acres and seven acres - along the Maumee River on either side of I-75, north of Rossford.

The prior owner, River Road Redevelopment LLC, purchased the property in 2006 for $565,000. The land is a reclaimed industrial site along Miami Street. A state grant and funding from Toledo were used to clean up the site. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency approved the remediation in February, clearing the way for redevelopment.

The gaming firm plans to build its 250,000-square-foot Hollywood Casino Toledo on the larger parcel, on the west side of I-75, Mr. Schippers said. The smaller parcel may be used for parking.

The casino is expected to have 1,500 full-time jobs paying an average of $35,000 annually, with some of the top jobs, such as game dealer, paying $45,000 a year.

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Mr. Schippers said his company can't set a groundbreaking date until the Ohio legislature establishes a gaming commission as required by Issue 3, the site-specific constitutional amendment voters approved in November to legalize Las Vegas-style gambling in Ohio.

Issue 3 was sponsored by Penn National and passed with a 53 percent majority, despite failing in 57 of Ohio's 88 counties. Lucas, Ottawa, Erie, Huron, Seneca, Putnam, and Allen counties were among those in northwest Ohio to approve it.

Under the terms of the measure, the legislature has until

June 3 to appoint the regulatory panel, which will be responsible for issuing casino licenses, Mr. Schippers said.

Once the panel is established, "Penn would then apply," Mr. Schippers said. The firm is confident the license will be issued, given its track record, he added.

Penn National operates 19 gambling facilities, including Toledo's Raceway Park, in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ontario.

Penn National will not have to apply to the city for a zoning change, as that requirement was satisfied with the passage of Issue 3, Mr. Schippers said.

But the company will need to obtain local permits, and "we're looking forward to working with Toledo and Rossford. We want to be as open and inclusive in the development as possible," he said.

Kenneth Schultz, the Penn National executive in charge of design and construction, has been in Toledo meeting officials and lining up contractors, Mr. Schippers said.

The Toledo casino will have the latest in slot machines and table games, including blackjack and roulette, and a small number of poker tables. The casino is being designed so that it won't compete directly with local businesses, he explained.

"We're not building a hotel. We'll probably have a small steakhouse and a food court and convenience dining and a buffet and a small entertainment lounge. It will be similar to our Lawrenceburg, Ind., casino," he said.

Penn National has hired Mr. Mitchell of Mitchell Law LLC to serve as its local legal counsel, and Mr. Black, who did a stint as former Mayor Jack Ford's chief of staff, as its diversity consultant.

Mr. Mitchell said he is a specialist in the management side of labor law who practiced at Shumaker Loop and Kendrick for 15 years before forming his own firm.

"I'm honored to be involved," he said. "I think Penn National is going to change the landscape of this community."

Mr. Black could not be reached. According to Penn National, he will help the firm develop a diversity plan to ensure the casino's work force reflects the community.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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