Akron-Canton Airport officials signed a confidentiality agreement with a real estate firm in August before discussions began about a potential gambling facility on airport property in Green.

The airport could be a potential site in a deal Gov. John Kasich is considering that would allow the Thistledown thoroughbred horse-racing track to relocate to the Akron area from North Randall in suburban Cleveland to capture the Akron-Canton gambling market. The deal could put two so-called racinos – the industry term for combined horse tracks and video slot parlors in Summit County. Northfield Park, a harness-racing track, is in Northern Summit County.

A copy of the confidentiality agreement was provided to the Beacon Journal on Thursday in response to a public records request by the paper for any documentation related to the development of a gambling facility at the airport. Additional records are being gathered to comply with the public records request, said Ronald S. Kopp, a partner with Akron law firm Roetzel & Andress and outside counsel for the airport.

The confidentiality agreement includes no details of any potential deal or negotiations. It only states that without prior written consent by the disclosing party, that representatives would “not disclose or reveal to any person any information about a possible transaction or the terms or conditions or any other facts” or that the agreement existed, unless required by law.

Kopp said the agreement was being released in accordance with public records law.

Since the agreement was signed last year and officials are not commenting on the possibility, it’s unclear whether there is still interest in Green at the airport as a possible site.

Identical confidentiality disclosure agreements were signed by all eight current airport trustees of the Airport Authority Board, as well as a trustee whose term expired last year; airport President and Chief Rick McQueen; and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Kristie Van Auken.

Airport officials have declined to comment on the issue and directed inquiries to Kopp, who said he could not discuss any details about the matter, but said that such confidentiality agreements are common and often signed by public entities during preliminary discussions. Green officials have also declined comment regarding a potential gambling facility. The Beacon Journal has also filed a public records request with the city for any related documents.

“These documents, when considering real estate transactions, are very common because generally people or entities looking at entering into real estate agreements want their initial inquiries to be confidential,” said Kopp in a phone interview.

In a follow-up email, Kopp said: “Board members of a public entity such as the Authority have a fiduciary obligation to act for the benefit of the Authority, which ultimately benefits the public. Without occasionally submitting to a NDA (confidentiality agreement) such as that at issue, the Authority would be unable to consider preliminary investigations or proposals by outside private interests that might ultimately benefit the Authority and the public. These NDAs are routine, lawful, and ultimately to the public interest and benefit. The NDA governs preliminary discussions and negotiations only. Any lease or real estate agreement would be required to go through the normal process required by the Sunshine Law, including being voted upon in a public meeting. The Authority has insisted that any agreement contemplated by discussions covered by the NDA be subject to approval by the City of Green.”

Kopp said he could not confirm whether the confidentiality agreement, signed with an entity called Real Estate Acquisition Company, LLC, a corporation formed last June with a listed agent in Cleveland, had any affiliation with Thistledown horse-racing track or Rock Ohio Caesars. The latter will operate the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland with Caesars Entertainment and has an option to obtain an equity share in Thistledown.

Rock Ohio Caesars could not be reached for comment.

Staff writer Rick Armon contributed to this report. He can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/blinfisher.