Slot machines will be added to Thistledown racetrack

NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - First Northfield Park, now Thistledown has been cleared to add slot machines inside its racetrack. The deal, between Rock Ohio Caesars LLC (ROC) and the State, was announced late Wednesday afternoon.

The agreement also gives the green light for the company to relocate in the Akron/Canton area through the development of a new combined racetrack and video lottery terminal (VLTs) at a future date.

Under the non-binding agreement, Rock Ohio Caesars (ROC) has to pay a $50 million fee to have the slots at the current North Randall location.

"We appreciate the sustained efforts by the Governor's office, the administration and the entire legislature to holistically examine and define the state's gaming landscape," said John Payne, Caesars president, in a news release. "We're in the preliminary stages of redesigning Thistledown's grandstand to accommodate VLTs and update other features of the facility."

ROC anticipates opening the VLT facility in spring 2013.

On the topic of an expanded facility, Payne said it could create hundreds of construction jobs and dozens of new Thistledown jobs, while also increasing attendance and purses for live horseracing meets.

But expanding isn't the only option on the table. ROC could also develop a new, permanent racino in Summit or Stark county, with a minimum investment of $150 million, plus a relocation fee.

ROC is reviewing its options for land and development opportunities along the I-77 corridor.

"A new location is something we are contemplating but in the meantime we are excited to invest in Thistledown to make it a multi-faceted entertainment destination in northeast Ohio."

The current facility, which offers live racing from April through November and simulcast racing year-round, employs 200 workers during the live racing season.

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