Casino, City Still Negotiating Annexation Deal

Written by Administrator. Posted in News

No Agreement Yet

Franklin County is pursuing a $6.2 million road construction project to widen Georgesville Road in time for the opening of the Hollywood Casino Columbus in 2012. Work is expected to begin next summer, but a clear timetable will emerge after the ohio public works commission decides in december how much funding it will contribute to the project.

Penn National plans to give up some of its 123 acres of land in order to allow for new turn lanes into the future casino site, as well as a sidewalk and a shared bike and pedestrian pathway.

The area across from Key Bank on Georgesville Road is currently projected to be the casino's main entrance. The casino is expected to employ at least 2,000 people in permanent positions. The road project is expected to take up to 15 months to complete.
Published: September 23, 2010


The battle between the city of Columbus and casino developer Penn National may not be over.

Seven months after the city convinced Penn National to relocate its Hollywood Casino Columbus to the west side and more than four months after Ohiovoters agreed to move the casino out of the Arena District, the city has yet to convince the company to move forward on annexation of the 123-acre future casino site on Georgesville Road near West Broad Street.

The land is in Franklin Township on Columbus' border. Both Penn National and Columbus have said they want to complete the annexation. The casino is not expected to open until late 2012, but if it opened today it would pay income and property taxes to Franklin Township, not Columbus. Casino employees' income taxes also would go to the township. In addition, the state constitution specifies that casino host cities receive a share of state taxes on gross casino revenue. The money would help to pay police, firefighters and fix streets.

"It's a very complicated process. There are several moving parts to this," said Bob Tenenbaum, spokesperson for Penn National. He declined to go into further detail on the negotiations, as did Dan Williamson, spokesperson for Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman.

One consideration in the discussion is Penn National's Arena District property. With original intentions to locate the casino downtown, Penn National spent$36.2 million in January for land along West Nationwide Boulevard.

According to Mike Copella, vice president of commercial sales and leasing for Alterra Real Estate Advisors, the land's value is considerably less now.

"$10-20 million depending on the user and what they're planning on doing with it," Copella estimated. "Penn's looking at taking a pretty significant loss... There's very few developers or owners that could take that type of loss."

In fact, in its second quarter financial statement, Penn National disclosed it took a $30.5 million write down on the property's value this summer.

Williamson said the city of Columbus made no commitment to easing Penn National's losses on the Arena District property in exchange for leaving downtown, but he added that the annexation discussions are continuing on all issues.

"Penn National made a decision that it did not make sense to fight the city and the downtown community on that, and agreed to move out here," Tenenbaumsaid, adding that annexation discussions have been constructive. According to Tenenbaum, Penn fully expects to apply for annexation. But asked if the casino developer expected to be compensated for its losses in the Arena District, Tenenbaum declined to address the question.

"I don't think it makes sense to try to negotiate in the media, no offense," Tenenbaum said.