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Austintown Racetrack Hires its First Chaplain

photo of Hollywood Gaming racino
Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course opened its doors in September, 2014.

Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course has hired its first chaplain.

Chaplain Jim Smith was working in his Christian bookstore in Calcutta, W. Va., when a recruiter from the Race Track Chaplaincy of America asked him to be the first chaplain at Mountaineer Racetrack, about two hours away. He worked there for nearly 13 years.

At his new job in Austintown, Smith offers counseling and organizes activities to help workers at the track cope with the long hours, strenuous labor, and social isolation that comes with their jobs.

“The horses don’t care what day of the week it is, or if it’s a holiday. They still need to be fed and tended to. It’s just a demanding, demanding job."

Smith says stepping outside a traditional church setting has helped him expand his views toward different people.

“You really have to realize where people are coming from, and you can’t judge people just because they’re not exactly in your mold and in your belief system. We have a tendency to judge people based on what we think they should be. And that’s a crucial mistake in our lives," Smith said.

If Smith feels someone has a substance abuse problem, he refers them to a detox or rehab center.

Chaplain Smith will spend the summer at Thistledown in Cleveland before returning to Austintown.