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Fort Wayne off-track betting could move to New Haven

INDIANAPOLIS – After more than 17 years in the Summit City, the Fort Wayne off-track betting parlor could be moving to New Haven.

Hoosier Park – owned by Centaur – filed a request Monday with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for the proposed $2 million relocation.

The commission will have a hearing on the matter Tuesday.

“Three years ago we started the process of revamping,” said John Keeler, attorney for Centaur. “We’re trying to put together a business model that will provide simulcast wagering and in the process hopefully make a little money.”

The Fort Wayne OTB – run by the Hoosier Park horse track in Anderson – has been operating at 1820 West Washington Center Road since 1996.

Hoosier Park began the process of re-evaluating its three OTB’s in the state due to significant losses in the amount of money being wagered on horse races in the facilities.

Fort Wayne handle dropped from $11.7 million in 2008 to $7.7 million in 2012. The operating loss at that facility in 2012 was $287,000, according to documents filed with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission

Hoosier Park found in its study that high caliber food and beverage service is key to successful OTB’s, along with easy pedestrian and vehicular visibility, access and parking. They moved the Indianapolis location and rebranded it using the name “The Winner’s Circle.”

After considering options in Allen County to develop a facility based on the Winner’s Circle model, Hoosier Park identified 10,040 square feet of space in Lincoln Plaza Shopping Center in New Haven. Distance from the current location is about 8 miles.

John Perlich, spokesman for Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, said there was no communication with the city about a possible move.

In Fort Wayne, smoking is prohibited at the OTB due to the city’s strict smoking ban but New Haven business owners have the option to allow smoking.

A state smoking ban exempts casinos and satellite facilities.

“I’m sure it’s a factor,” Keeler said. “We try to cater to everyone.”

Plans for the new OTB include a “high-quality” pub and grille “where racing is presented in comfort.”

Documents filed by Hoosier Park estimate $2 million in improvements to the facility with the hope of being open in June 2014.

Hoosier Park also has an offer on the current facility and land for $900,000.

Keeler said Hoosier Park is also seeking to use the FastBet Mobile system in the New Haven location – a system currently being used in Indianapolis and the track in Anderson. It allows patrons to use a tablet or other device to place bets from their table or seat instead of going to a window and standing in line.

New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald was unaware of the possible move but was pleased.

“Our community is a good place to do business,” he said. “We want people to invest here. We love it.”

nkelly@jg.net

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