MTR Gaming Not Looking for 'Cheap Assets'

MTR Gaming Group seeks to improve operations rather than pursue other assets.

MTR Gaming Group swung to a profit of $742,000 in the first quarter of the year, with officials vowing May 7 to continue to improve on current operations rather than seek other properties to add to the company's portfolio.

The net profit was a rebound from a first-quarter loss of $2.6 million in 2008, despite a 3% decline in net revenues from continuing operations to $109.7 million.

A financial analyst, in a related May 7 conference call, asked if MTR Gaming Group was interested in picking up any “cheap assets” expected to come on the market. Although the caller didn’t indentify the properties, it is believed he was referring to casino and/or racino/racetrack properties that are struggling in the current economic downturn.

“I think everyone would like to pick up some cheap assets,” said MTR Gaming Group president and chief executive officer Robert Griffin.

But Griffin stressed the company feels it instead needs to focus on improving its current operations. The company reported it pared expenses by 59% to $1.5 million in the first quarter, compared to $3.6 million in the start of 2008.

“We are not looking to pick up any assets at this time,” he said.

MTR Gaming owns two Thoroughbred racinos: Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W. Va; and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pa. The company also includes among its continuing operations Scioto Downs harness track in Columbus, Ohio, where legislation for slots is being pursued.

EBITDA (earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation, and amortization) at the company’s signature Mountaineer racino declined 11.5% to $12.5 million in a quarter-over-quarter comparison, while increasing 39.2% to $9 million at Presque Isle Downs. Company EBITDA from continuing operations was up 19% to $19.5 million.