More Time for Developers of Lawrence County Racino

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – More time to secure financing and a tentative agreement with new backers are removing from life support the long delayed casino project known as Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted Thursday to give Endeka Entertainment LP six months to finalize a new partnership deal and secure financing for the $225 million project first announced 11 years ago for a Mahoning Township site in Lawrence County, Pa.

The board’s unanimous vote followed a public hearing during which Endeka told why it should be permitted to amend the casino license application it filed through Western Pa Gaming, a subsidiary that formerly involved Penn National Gaming Inc. of Wyomissing, Pa., a file a new application.

Penn National announced in April it was pulling out of the Endeka partnership, citing market saturation. Endeka subsequently sued Penn National claiming the company misrepresented its intentions when it entered into the partnership – allegedly to thwart competition for its racino in Austintown Township.

Endeka says it now has a tentative partnership agreement with Joseph G. Procacci, who would replace Penn National as general partner, and Merit Management Group, a Chicago casino company that would manage the Lawrence County operation.

Procacci, 87, is the CEO of Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., a Philadelphia company that reportedly grows and ships 20% of the tomatoes sold in the United States, and chairman of PHL Local Gaming LLC.

Six months ago, Procacci and Merit lost their bid for a casino license in Philadelphia.

In announcing Procacci’s interest, Endeka noted that Merit is headed by a native of New Castle, Pa., Joe Canfora.

Merit’s website states the company has developed and operated casinos in Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, California, Illinois, Washington and Nevada, as well as throughout Canada, Central and South America.

“In some casino markets,“ the company says, “poor planning and market analysis led to overbuilt properties that could not meet their obligations to the municipality, bondholders or members of their community. Merit Management Group’s professionals can help your project avoid these pitfalls through correctly assessing the market potential, and structuring the development to the market. Our professionals have worked in commercial and tribal settings to evaluate markets and design financial packages that benefit all stakeholders.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.