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More Settlement Talks Today In West Side Casino Dispute

A second day of settlement talks is scheduled today in federal district court among Columbus, Franklin County, and the owners of a proposed West Side casino. The parties want to avoid a federal court hearing over water, land annexation and taxes. When discussion broke off Monday night after nearly twelve hours of back and forth negotiation, both city attorney Rick Pfeiffer and senior vice president for Penn National Gaming, Eric Schippers, described the marathon session as "productive." But a lasting agreement remains elusive. Penn National Gaming wants federal court judge Gregory Frost to grant a temporary order forcing the city to provide water and sewer service to the West Side site where the company is building a casino. Columbus wants the company to annex its land at West Broad and Georgesville Road in return for the water and sewer service. An estimated $8 million in future casino tax revenue hinges on the outcome of the legal dispute. The city claims it has a right to require annexation in return for the utility service. Penn National counters that the former manufacturing plant on the site had city water and sewer even though it was situated on county land. So far, Penn National rejects petitioning for annexation after it agreed to allow Ohio voters to change the location of the proposed casino from the Arena District to the site in Franklin Township. The company says it needs quick access to water and sewer to meet its construction deadline. The company has indicated it wants to open the casino by October 2012. Talks are scheduled to resume late this morning.