Arneault Plans to Exit MTR Gaming

Arneault Plans to Exit MTR Gaming
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MTR Gaming in its annual report said it lost $11.4 million in 2007 and announced Ted Arneault will at the end of the year step down as chairman and chief executive officer.

The annual report, which was released April 4 after close of the stock market, said Arneault would not enter into a new employment agreement, but would “remain for a reasonable period if required for a smooth transition.” Arneault has been CEO of MTR Gaming for 13 years.

MTR Gaming has said little else about Arneault’s pending departure. A company spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the decision to the Wheeling (W. Va.) News-Register, saying only, “At this time, his contract expires at the end of the year.”

The company in 2007 lost $6.3 million from continuing operations, which includes two Thoroughbred tracks and three harness tracks, and $5.1 million from discontinued operations, which includes a property MTR Gaming sold in March, the Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas.

The $11.4 million loss in 2007 followed four consecutive years where MTR Gaming posted combined net income of $41.8 million.

MTR Gaming operates Thoroughbred racinos Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W. Va., and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pa, which the company opened in 2007. The company also includes harness tracks Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio; and Jackson Harness Raceway in Jackson, Mich.; and this month plans to open in a partnership Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus Township, Minn.

Earlier this year, MTR Gaming closed on the sale of its two Las Vegas casinos for a combined $50.2 million. The Ramada Inn and Speedway Casino was sold in January for $18.2 million, while Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel was sold for $32 million. The company continues to operate the Ramada Inn and Speedway Casino on a short-term lease.

MTR Gaming said in its annual report that with the divestiture of the two casinos nearly completed, the company “focus on driving revenues and profits from our core racetrack-based gaming properties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania,” and will become a “regional racino company.”

Mountaineer handled $39.5 million in racing wagers in 2007, including revenues from live days, as well as imported and exported simulcast handle. The handle total is down 6.2% from the $42.1 million recorded in 2006. The company blamed the drop on more severe weather last year, as well as "decreased attendance resulting from the ability of patrons to place pari-mutuel wagers via telephone and the Internet.”

About 200 unionized workers went on strike March 29 at Mountaineer and a restraining order was recently issued by a local court to limit the number of picketers to six at any gate, according to the News-Register. Those on strike, which represent about 9% of Mountaineer’s 2,300 employees, are seeking better pay and health benefits.

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