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Developers Break Ground On West-Side Casino; Legal Challenges Loom -

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Penn National Gaming took the first steps to bringing gambling to Central Ohio Monday.

The formal groundbreaking for the

$400 million project occurred Monday at West Broad Street and Georgesville Road.

Chris Haydocy has been doing business on West Broad Street for more than 50 years. He said he sees the groundbreaking as a rebirth of the city's west side.

"The west side used to be the crown jewel of Central Ohio. It was the envy of every place. We had manufacturing, we had jobs, we had low crime," Haydocy said.

Penn National's 300,000 square-foot Hollywood Casino will shine brightly on the old the site of the old Delphi Automotive Plant. It's taken $25 million to clean up the site.

The $400 million investment promises to generate 3,500 construction jobs and 2,000 casino jobs when the casino opens in late 2012. It's an exciting time for Jack Chapman who retired from Delphi.

"I live about a mile and seven-tenths up the road and I've worked here for 30.8 years. I'm telling you the west side is just going downhill. We need this to build it up and I think it will build it up," said Chapman.

But questions remain about how much construction Penn National can complete while still fighting several lawsuits. The company is sparring with the City of Columbus over water and sewer services. Penn National is seeking millions in tax breaks, but the City of Columbus says they don't owe them a dime.

"The water and sewer issues are really just about getting our certificate of occupancy which comes when the project nears completion in 18 months. We wanted to get this project started," said Penn National President Tim Wilmott.

Wilmott does not believe any pending litigation will slow construction and because of the lawsuit, no representative from the City of Columbus was invited to Monday's groundbreaking. Lawsuits aside, west-side residents said they believe the casino is a well-placed bet for the future.

"We are looking forward to bringing people back to the west side. It is a great place to be. There's a lot of opportunity around here with the vacant land and vacant buildings. There's so much potential," said Sara Elswick.

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