Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Racing license process flawed, groups tell court
The high court hearing seemed to go well for Bedford Downs, its developer said.
PHILADELPHIA Two western Pennsylvania groups rejected in their bids for the state's last harness racing license and the lucrative slots license that comes with it told the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday that the award process was flawed.
The state racing commission denied licenses to a group led by businessman Carmen Shick that wants to build Bedford Downs in Lawrence County and Centaur Inc., which wants to build Valley View Downs in Beaver County.
Valley View said the commission changed its rules midway through the game. Instead of awarding the license to the first qualified firm that applied, the panel decided to compare applications and choose the most appealing bid, lawyer William Lamb said.
The racing commission had said it rejected the Valley View bid because of site problems.
Shick's Bedford Downs project was nixed because the commission found that his grandfather, Carmen Ambrosia, had done business years ago with a former mobster. Shick's lawyer argues that the group should not be punished for the "sins of the father."
How it went
Shick and his attorney Victor Stabile said they believe the hearing went well for Bedford Downs.
"I think Vic did an exemplary job of defending the merits of our project and dispelling any misnomers that weren't supported by fact," Shick said.
Stabile said the six Supreme Court justices sitting for the arguments asked many questions.
"I think we did a good job of setting the record straight. I think the court now has a clear picture," he said.
Lawrence County Commissioner Ed Fosnaught, who attended on behalf of the county, said he was impressed by the justices' understanding of the facts and their questions appeared to be favorable to the Bedford Downs project.
"Justice [Ralph] Cappy said it's clear from the record that the applicant [Shick] is beyond reproach," Fosnaught said.
The county commissioner noted that other justices questioned the harness commission about being "big brother" and rejecting Bedford because members did not believe it could be awarded a slots license by the state gaming board.
The state racing commission has until July 2009 to award a racing license that would likely give the winner the all-important slots license.
"We have one license. We want to make the best decision possible," racing commission lawyer Jorge Augusto said.
In June, Commonwealth Court ruled that the racing commission erred in rejecting the Bedford Downs application and ordered the commission to reconsider it. The court rejected Centaur's appeal, a decision the company is now appealing.
Shick said the Supreme Court justices indicated they knew that time was short with the 2009 deadline and would make a timely decision.
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