No horses, yet, at Ohio’s newest racino

Company officials said several thousands of people braved the extremely cold temperatures last week to greet the opening of Ohio’s newest racino.
Owners of the Miami Valley Gaming casino, formerly known as Lebanon Raceway, are Delaware North Companies of Buffalo, New York, and Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN), the former horse racing company that has made substantial moves in the gaming industry during the past year.
However, calling the property a racino may be premature.
Yes, the $175 million “entertainment venue” has 1,600 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) but it doesn’t have any horses. It doesn’t even have a racing license from the Ohio State Racing Commission.
The problem developed when state racing officials visited the facility and found there were no mutual clerks to take wagers on races being simulcast into the track. And, the operators indicated they didn’t plan to hire any clerks when live racing begins, hopefully in early February.
Instead, they rely on stand-alone self-service machines to dispense horse race bets after fans have completed the work of entering the necessary information, as well as the amount of money being wagered. For those fans who are unfamiliar with the machines, the management has stationed information clerks in the wagering area.
The lack of pari-mutuel clerks has “upset a lot of Miami Valley people who are now going to River Downs (for full-card simulcasts),” said Bill Crawford, the Commission’s executive director.
Crawford said it was not unusual for tracks to reduce the number of live clerks when business slowed but to not have any was unknown at Ohio tracks.
From management’s point of view, it is merely a question of “dollars and cents.” They note the previous track operator “lost a lot of money, so the goal for this operation was to be on the cutting edge of technology.
“Technology is something we can’t stop. No doubt the approach we’re taking is radical. It’s also a labor issue. It’s intense, and we’re trying to reduce labor,” said General Manager Jim Simms.
That didn’t satisfy Commission members. They want a meeting to determine the “proper mix of pari-mutuel clerks and self-service machines,” before they issue a racing license.


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