At finish line of first year, Hollywood Gaming aims to advance



This week marks the one-year anniversary of Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

That means more than $855 million credits have been played at the Austintown racino since it opened for a VIP night Sept. 15, 2014, and officially opened to the public Sept. 17.

There have been 320 full-time employees year-round, with 100 more employees hired full-time for about six months during the live horse-racing season. Mike Galle, Hollywood Gaming vice president and general manager, said that parent company Penn National stayed true to its word and hired more than 90 percent of its workers locally.

That has included 77 internal promotions.

“So a number of people have been able to enhance their career. ... Some of the positions we held open so we could see how our team did and could advance them,” Galle said.

On top of local hires, Galle said Hollywood Gaming buys its produce locally and has a local T-shirt maker for its gift shop.

The Austintown racino has changed in the last year, most notably by:

Featuring comedy acts in the H Lounge on Thursday nights.

Expanding shuttle routes to more truck stops, such as to the Salt Springs Road area.

All-you-can-eat ribs on Sundays; prime rib special on Thursdays.

An additional 75 video lottery terminals added to the floor bringing the total to 941.

No more $100 denomination VLTs, which didn’t draw players. All machines now use smaller denominations.

The highest jackpot paid out was $62,500 on a $25 machine.

The highest revenue months were October 2014, the first full month of operations; and July 2015. The net win, or the revenue that is divided among the facility, lottery commission and problem gambling services, has been above $7.6 million every month since March. The winter months, which are usually lower, were between $6.8 million and $7.1 million net win.

“I was really happy with the amount of patronage we had during the live racing season,” Galle said. “We’ve been very happy with the support of the community. It’s just a tremendous community to live in, to work in and be a part of it.”

As a member of the community, Hollywood Gaming has given more than $60,000 in charitable donations over the past year, and collected from customers’ winnings about $173,000 in unpaid child support and state debt.

Hollywood Gaming plans to do many things this week to celebrate its one-year anniversary, including giving up to $30,000 on Thursday. For more details on events planned this week, go to

Alan Silver, Ohio University assistant professor of restaurant, hotel and tourism and a casino expert, said Hollywood Gaming has built a “great foundation” in its first year. “Now, the key is to build on that foundation and build floor by floor and develop the necessary infrastructure and resources to keep building loyalty to get customers to return and return – and that’s the key,” he said. “Repeat visitation builds loyalty.”

“We’re continuing to try new things, but we’ve had a lot of success, and I think our patrons have been pleased with a lot of things that we have done. Specifically we did a [Chevrolet] Camaro giveaway in June,” said Geoff Duncan, Hollywood Gaming marketing director. “We’ve just seen some good traction over the last several months.”

Galle echoed Duncan and said some gift giveaways “hit home runs, and others weren’t as well received” as the facility gets to know its customer base better.

Both also said the racino looks to build upon its banquet business, with businesses or people renting out the space in the grandstand areas for parties, as it heads into year two.

Silver agreed that Hollywood Gaming promotions will “build on the first year, look at what works [and] what doesn’t work.”

He said Penn National also will be looking at “the nearest competition, and I would imagine Penn National would look at the Hard Rock” Rocksino at Northfield Park in the Cleveland suburbs – “which has really taken the lead in the state,” he said.

The Rocksino’s net win bounced between about $14.49 million in November 2014, the lowest month in fiscal year 2015, to as high as $18.76 million in May.

From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, the Rocksino’s net win was $194.38 million, or more than double that of Hollywood Gaming’s net win of $89.8 million.