by Hector San MiguelBoyd Gaming announced plans July 30 for a $50-million expansion at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. In a conference call on Boyd's second-quarter earnings, the company said Delta Downs, which has slot machines, has become of its "best performers."The slots parlor at Delta Downs opened its slot parlor in February 2002 with nearly 1,500 machines. State revenue records show the devices have generated $180 million in gross revenue in the past 16 months. The slots have generated more than $26 million in purse money during that same period.Of the expansion plan, Boyd president Don Snyder said it would be done in two phases."The first phase of this project involves increasing the size of the casino building to provide customers with a more open and comfortable environment including wider aisles on the slot floor," Snyder said. "We have seen in other markets that an enhanced gaming environment can lead to increased play."The project's second phase is set to begin in early 2004 and involves construction of a 200-room hotel, Snyder said."We feel that given our premiere location and with the flexibility provided by significant acreage at Delta Downs, these rooms can increase the utilization of the 1,500 slot machines in non-peak hours, allowing us to grow the business and its cash flow," he said.Boyd chief executive officer Keith Smith said the expansion project "is essentially getting under way as we speak. The first phase of the project...will be completed around the first quarter of next year if all goes well," he said.Boyd reported gross revenue of $634 million for the first six months of 2003, up from $615 million in the same period last year. The company said the increase was due to the slots operation at Delta Downs and its Blue Chip dockside riverboat casino in Michigan City, Ind.