Posted by Lisa Strawbridge - email
TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Harness race drivers are speaking out against the proposed closure of Toledo's Raceway park. Penn National Gaming, Inc. has requested the move because it does not want to compete with itself when its Hollywood Casino opens.
John Konesky of Pemberville hopes it never happens. At his home, he cares for and trains the horses he drives at Raceway Park. He's been competing there for 40 years and calls Raceway Park his "second home."
While bettors depend on him and his horses for their winnings, he races horses for a living. He was surprised when he first learned the company wanted to move to Northeast Ohio.
"The rumor was out there that it may move but when they were talking about moving it as far as they were, to the Youngstown area, I was very disappointed," Konesky said. "And it's really hard to understand, why are they moving to that area?"
Konesky says he won't take his horses to race in Youngstown, because it would be too expensive with gas and turnpike tolls. He says there would also be wear and tear on the horses and equipment. He worries local drivers and trainers could be forced out of the business.
Konesky also has an emotional bond with his horses.
"Oh yes some days when I am having a bad day, I just need to go out to the barn for a while and just be around the horses for a while, because they are more than just something you own."
He'll continue to live out his dream at tracks in Detroit and at county fairs in Ohio, even if Penn National pulls out of town. And that's likely to happen if slots are allowed at race tracks in Ohio.
Even so, Konesky thinks horsemen should lobby for slots at racetracks to bring in more customers and purse money.
He thinks that would allow the industry to thrive.
If slots are approved, Penn National plans to move. The move would still need approval from the Ohio Racing Commission.
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