HARRISBURG - Ted Arneault, the former CEO of a company that owns racetrack casinos in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is one of the investors now driving a long-stalled racetrack and casino project northwest of Pittsburgh.
Paperwork from the state Department of Agriculture shows Arneault and four others own American Harness Tracks of Pittsburgh, including Charles Knoll Jr., son of the late lieutenant governor, Catherine Baker Knoll.
"We've all known one another for many years in one capacity or another,'' Knoll told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Everybody has looked at racing and gaming since the enactment of the (slot-machine casino) legislation in 2004.''
The group won approval from Pennsylvania state racing regulators last week to take over the Valley View Downs & Casino project in Lawrence County. The project stalled when Indianapolis-based Centaur Inc. ran into financial troubles and auctioned it as part of a bankruptcy case.
The paperwork said Arneault owns 25 percent.
Developer Christine Biros owns 30 percent, while 15 percent apiece is owned by former casino lobbyist Nicholas Geanopulos, former stable owner William Price and Knoll, according to the documents.
The group is scheduled to close the $5.6 million deal Tuesday, Centaur's chief financial officer, Kurt Wilson, told the Tribune-Review.
Within 60 days, American Harness Tracks must show racing regulators that it has the financing to build a racing facility worth at least $150 million. Then it must get the gaming board's approval for a slot machine license.
Six racetrack casinos are already operating in Pennsylvania, and state law allows just one other racetrack - the holder of this last harness racing license - to win a slot machine license. That provision was designed to boost the state's racing and equine industries when the Legislature approved casino-style gambling in 2004.
Arneault headed MTR Gaming Group Inc. of West Virginia when it won a license in 2006 to build Presque Isle Downs & Casino near Erie. He left MTR in 2008.
MTR also owns Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W.Va., and Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio.
Before any construction begins at the Valley View site, American Harness Tracks will first seek licenses from the gaming board to operate slot machines and table games, a lawyer representing the group has said.
The gaming board in 2010 renewed Arneault's license to work in the state's gambling industry after the agency's investigative and enforcement bureau had initially recommended against it. In April, Arneault sued gaming board officials and others in federal court; that case is pending.