BERLIN – The future of slots at Ocean Downs is directly tied to the existence of live racing at the historic track near Berlin, and not the other way around, county officials have determined after reviewing the zoning designation for the property.
Last month, Ocean Downs officials reached an agreement with the horsemen guaranteeing live racing for at least three years regardless of what happens with the pending application for a slots venue license at the track. The accord was reached after a hard-fought battle between the parties over concerns about the future of live racing if slots come.
Before the contract was finalized, however, Cloverleaf asked the County Commissioners to intercede on its behalf to ensure live racing continues at the track regardless of the future of slots at the facility. After county staff explored the issue, it was determined the future of slots at Ocean Downs is dependent on the existence of live racing and not the other way around.
When county Attorney Sonny Bloxom and Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor, along with Deputy Director Phyllis Wimbrow, dissected the zoning issues surrounding the facility, they determined the track lies within the county’s A-1 agricultural district and the racetrack is allowed on the property as a special exception. Creating a slots venue at the track would be considered an accessory use to the special exception and could only be continued as long as the racetrack exists, according to county staffers.
County Chief Administrative Officer Gerald Mason allayed Cloverleaf’s fears about the future of live racing at Ocean Downs as it relates to the existence of a slots venue at the track.
“The County Commissioners have determined that under our current ordinance, as well as the currently proposed revisions thereto, Ocean Downs would lose the right to continue having slots at this facility if they stopped live racing for a period of 12 consecutive months,” the letter reads. “Specifically, the racetrack is permitted by special exception in the A-1 zoning district and the slots facility would be permitted as an accessory use to the racetrack. Therefore, if live racing was discontinued, the special exception would be considered abandoned and slots could not be continued as an accessory use.”
In a memo to Mason, Tudor confirms the staff’s findings related to slots and the special exception.
“If the special exception is abandoned, then there are no other provisions in the existing code or proposed code to allow slots in the A-1 district other than as previously described,” the memo reads.