West Side Casino Gets One Step Closer

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Developers say they've received a crucial permit from the county. WOSU's Steve Brown has the latest on work at the Columbus-area site, and three others around the state.(Photo: Faris (flickr))
Developers say they've received a crucial permit from the county. WOSU's Steve Brown has the latest on work at the Columbus-area site, and three others around the state.(Photo: Faris (flickr))

Developers of the West Broad Street casino say they finally have the necessary permits to start building.

Penn National Gaming held a ground breaking ceremony last month after it received some state permits to begin prepping the site. On Wednesday, says company spokesman Bob Tenenbaum, they finally got a Certificate of Zoning Compliance from the county.

“Which basically says that the usage that we’re planning for the property, which of course is the $400 million casino, is appropriate for that piece of property,” Tenenbaum says.

Maybe appropriate, but still far from a sure thing. Even with work on the foundations of the main building and a parking garage now underway, the county still lacks several other construction permits. And there’s that federal lawsuit the company filed after it said it was unlawfully denied some utilities by the city and county.

“We’ve known all along that we’ll have to solve the water and service situation before we can get an occupancy permit, which would actually let us open the casino. But we’re looking at about an 18-month construction process, so there’s a lot of time to work these things out,” Tenenbaum says.

18 months is also about how long it’s been since voters approved the four Ohio casinos, yet none have progressed much past a little digging. Work continues in Toledo, but the developer of casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati recently halted construction. Rock Ohio Caesars owner Dan Gilbert made the decision after House Republicans put language in the proposed budget that would make casinos pay taxes on all money wagered, not just revenue.

“We stopped because if this thing is really going to change in a significant way, we have to re-analyze the structure, the scope, and the size, because you just can’t make decisions in a vacuum,” Gilbert says.

Gilbert’s company and developers of the Columbus-area casino say any changes to revenue structure would violate the Constitutional amendment approved in 2009. Still, the state has hired two firms to advise the Governor on gambling-related issues one of those firms stands to make up to $13 million if the state can get more money from casinos.

Despite the litigation and possible revenue changes, Penn National spokesman Bob Tennenbaum is still confident the West Broad Street casino will get built, and he says, will be taking bets within the window promised to voters.

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