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Gambling Developer Purchases Arena District Acreage; West Side Signals Interest in Casino

The company interested in building a casino near downtown Columbus has completed the purchase of acreage in the arena district. But in the face of strong opposition to a casino in that area, officials with Penn National Gaming say they are still reviewing possible alternative sites.

In a written statement Penn National Gaming says it's completed the purchase of approximately 24 acres in Columbus's Arena District. But, the statement says, Penn National is continuing to consider a limited number of alternative sites in Columbus that could allow for the development of the proposed casino to begin earlier.

If an alternative site is selected, legislation would have to be submitted, a three-fifths vote by the legislature would be necessary to approve the measure and state-wide voter approval in May would also be required.

Efforts to obtain comments from Penn National representatives for this report were not successful.

Earlier Friday the trustees of Franklin Township voted in favor of locating the casino on the west side of Columbus.

Trustee Don Cook, who last week, rejected the idea, says he will support a casino on the west side, only if the township benefits financially. He says the township's future hangs in the balance.

"There won't be enough tax dollars left to support the fire, police and roads," Cook said.

Like Cook, trustee Paul Johnson remains skeptical about an annexation deal with the city of Columbus. And despite reassurances from the township's attorney that Columbus is willing to negotiate revenue sharing it wasn't enough to gain Johnson's vote.

"If all of this energy that's been generated toward the casino, if we can hold all of those people together, the pro and the con, and try to start to bring in other forms of businesses I think that we could really change things over here on the west side," Johnson said.

The resolution calls for timely negotiations between the city of Columbus and Franklin Township for the revenue sharing proposal.