Ohio voters decided yesterday by a large margin to move the build site of Penn National Gaming's Columbus casino from the Arena District to the former Delphi Auto Parts plant on the West side.
Issue 2 passes with 69 percent of the vote statewide, while being approved by 82 percent of the vote in Franklin County.
Penn National Gaming will sell the Arena District it had originally purchased and begin construction on the Columbus casino at its new location.
In a press release issued yesterday by Senior VP of Public Affairs for Penn National, Eric Schippers stated “We have begun demolition of the physical structures, and are in the process of determining the extent of the environmental issues that will need to be addressed before groundbreaking, which is scheduled by the end of 2010. We look forward to working with the city of Columbus, as well as neighboring jurisdictions and the community, on planning and pre-construction matters.”
The Columbus Ohio casino is scheduled to open in late 2012.
This Tuesday, Ohio voters will be asked to approve the final location of Penn National's Hollywood casino in Columbus.
Last year, voters approved the building of a casino with an original location of Downtown Columbus' Arena District. Issue 2 on the May ballot is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would move the casino site from the Arena District to the far west side, at the former General Motors-Delphi auto parts plant.
If the amendment passes tomorrow, Penn National will be set to start building at the 123-acre west-side location. If the amendment does not pass, they will continue with the original plans to build on an 18-acre lot in the Arena District.
The west side of Columbus has been very supportive of having a casino built in the area. Lisa Griffin, spokeswoman for a group called Stand Up Columbus!, says that the Arena District has not been as receptive to the idea of having a casino.
The Hilltop Business Assocation on the west side supports Issue 2. President of the Hilltop Business Assocation Julie Andrews says, "We have received very strong support from the businesses and residents of the Hilltop area, as well as from city and state officials. This opportunity should be the catalyst for the renovation of the west-side area"
Penn National Gaming Inc's President, Tim Wilmott confirmed this morning that they have signed an option to buy the former Delphi auto-parts plant along West Broad Street, where they now plan to build the Columbus Ohio casino.
Mayor Michael B. Coleman has cited a "high level of support on the West Side".
The move, however, is still in the hands of the voters, as changing the location from the initially proposed Arena District will require a statewide vote.
Penn National Gaming and local supporters want to schedule a new vote to change the location during Ohio's May 4 primary election.
State lawmakers have said that they are prepared to move quickly on legislation that will replace the Arena District site currently identified in the constitution with parcel numbers from the alternative site.
If Ohio voters reject the amendment, Penn National will go back to its original plans on building in the Arena District.
Penn National wants to open a Columbus Ohio casino at either location by the end of 2012.
Penn National Gaming, Inc announced on Friday that they have completed the purchased of 24 acres of land in the Arena District.
Despite having closed on land in the Arena District, the initially proposed and voted upon location of the new casino, Penn National says it is still considering several alternative locations for building the new Columbus Ohio casino.
Senior Vice President of Penn National Eric Schippers states "Penn National Gaming and its partner, Rock Ventures, do not want to lose any time in fulfilling our commitments under Issue 3 to invest over $1 billion in Ohio and begin generating over 34,000 new jobs, specifically those jobs and the economic development that benefits Columbus. The company is also sensitive to the tight timetable required to introduce new legislation to move the site, which would require a three fifths vote of the Legislature and a statewide vote in May.
Penn National hopes to make an announcement regarding an alternative location within the next few days. Until then, the company says they will continue to plan for development in the Arena District while also evaluating alternative locations.
While the Polaris area has been mentioned as an alternative location for Penn National Gaming's Columbus Ohio casino, officials in the area would like to make it known that they are not in favor.
Trustees in Genoa Township, located adjacent to Polaris, sent a letter to the City of Columbus, voicing their opposition to a casino.
Genoa Township trustee Rick Carfagna states, "We do not believe the Polaris area is an appropriate fit for this casino."
Carfagna went on to cited traffic as one of the reasons why a casino in the Polaris area would not be a good idea.
"When the (Polaris) amphitheater was there, we had enough problems with the noise and the traffic. With the casino, you're talking about traffic now on a year-round basis, probably on a 24-hour basis. It's just going to cause a whole host of problems."
Officials in nearby Westerville and Orange Township have also voiced opposition to a casino at Polaris.
Penn National Gaming, Inc is expected to announce this week which one of five alternative locations their Hollywood Columbus Casino they've selected.
Ohio State Rep. Ted Celeste, who is one of two house members expected to write a resolution allowing Penn National Gaming to move the casino from the originally approved Arena District stated that "I think in the next few days, we'll get a response from Penn National about the sites they are looking at."
Legislation will be introduced in the Ohio House and Senate to call for a change in location once the Columbus Ohio casino site is selected. A 60% favorable vote by both is required.
This all must be completed by February 3rd in order to be placed on the May 4th statewide ballot. The new location would then need to be approved by Ohio voters in order to move the Columbus Ohio casino location from the Arena District.
The Far South Columbus Area Commission has told Penn National Gaming, Inc, and the city of Columbus that it wants to be considered as an alternative location for the proposed Columbus Ohio casino.
According to the Scioto Southland Civic Association, the area would be a good option.
Mindi Hardgrow, President of the Scioto Southland Civic Association, states "There is a lot of potential for growth. We are ready to dig now. A lot of the land has public utilities already, and they are annexed into the city and that was one of Penn's big things."
Hardgrow also noted that accessibility would be very good, citing access to 23, 270, and 71, as well as the fact that 315 is being redone in 2012.
Penn National has released a statement saying "It is helpful for us to understand the level of community support for these potential sites. In terms of a timeline, we're moving as quickly as possible to consider these alternatives."
Hardgrow says they are very hopeful and they think they have a good chance.
The head of Penn National Gaming Inc. has stated that they are willing to consider alternative locations apart from the Arena District area that Ohio voters approved on November 3.
Mayor Michael Coleman has suggested some alternative sites for the Columbus Ohio casino, including Westland Mall, the former Delphi Corporation Plant, Cooper Stadium, and an area north of 71 and Polaris Pkwy.
Penn National Gaming has issued a statement that said "Penn National Gaming continues to have the utmost confidence in its legal rights to develop a casino in the Arena District. However, in the spirit of compromise, and as a further reflection of our desire to be a good corporate citizen in Columbus, we are willing to listen to the call for an alternative site but only to the extent it would result in us getting shovels in the ground faster."
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