New River Downs Hopes to Open in Spring 2014

Pinnacle Entertainment plans to begin construction on a new River Downs by the end of March, but the company remains mum on details about the planned Ohio racetrack casino.

During a Feb. 13 conference call on fourth-quarter and full 2012 earnings, officials with the Las Vegas-based gaming company said they hope the facility opens in the second quarter of 2014. Demolition of the grandstand and some barns is nearly complete.

The facility will have 1,600 video lottery terminals, four food and beverage outlets, a VIP lounge, about 2,000 parking spaces, and "new racing facilities," the company said. The project will cost about $209 million, not including license fees, acquisition costs, and interest.

Pinnacle president and chief executive officer Anthony Sanfilippo said River Downs, located just east of Cincinnati, will complement the company's Belterra Resort and Casino in neighboring Indiana. Both facilities are located along the Ohio River.

"This will be a complete rebuild we think will be a complementary property (to Belterra)," Sanfilippo said. "(River Downs) will be a local concept where people can come for the afternoon or evening, and have a full resort experience about an hour away.

"We haven't revealed the plan yet, but we're very excited about it."

The construction means River Downs won't conduct live racing this year. The meet is expected to be transferred to Beulah Park near Columbus but to date no agreement has been brought before the Ohio State Racing Commission. The OSRC also hasn't heard a presentation from Pinnacle officials about their full plans for the River Downs facility in regard to amenities for racing patrons.

The company did take a $4.7 million depreciation charge for the racetrack demolition, officials said. In 2012 Pinnacle reported record revenue of $1.1 billion but an overall loss due to $40.6 million charges in the fourth quarter, according to financial statements.

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