Louisiana Racinos Produce $40M for Purses So Far

by Hector San Miguel

The slot-machine parlor at the Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino reigns as the most profitable racino in Louisiana, having generated more than $33 million in purse money the past two years, according to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. In all, three racinos have produced more than $40 million for horsemen.

Racinos at Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino have opened in the last year. They have generated millions of dollars in gross revenue but neither has achieved the success of Delta Downs, located not far from the Texas border.

On average, slots at Delta Downs generate about $10 million a month, while Evangeline averages about $5 million a month, and Louisiana Downs just over $4 million a month. Louisiana Downs is located in Bossier City, not far from a fleet of riverboat casinos.

The Delta Downs operation has had a major impact on revenue at the Isle of Capri and Harrah's riverboat casinos in nearby Lake Charles. Both casino properties reported major decreases in gross gaming revenues since Delta Downs opened its slots parlor.

The 1,496 machines at Delta Downs have generated nearly $260 million in gross revenue from its February 2002 opening through February 2004. The track has generated $33.1 million for purses, which earn 15% of the net revenue.

Since its opening in May 2003, the racino at Louisiana Downs has taken in $43.2 million in gross revenue from 900 slot machines through February 2004. More than $5.3 million in purse money was generated during the 10-month period.

Harrah's Entertainment reported in its annual financial report that expansion of the slots parlor to hold 1,400 machines should be completed this spring.

"Our renovation and expansion of Louisiana Downs is expected to cost approximately $110 million, $56.8 million of which had been spent as of Dec. 31, 2003," Harrah's said in the financial statement. "Louisiana Downs contributed $56.9 million in revenue in 2003, but pre-opening costs related to the introduction of slot machines at the facility drove a loss from operations of $1.4 million."

The gaming control board March 15 approved a $37.5-million buyout by Harrah's of its 5% local partners in its Shreveport riverboat casino and the racino.

Evangeline Downs, owned by Peninsula Gaming, opened its slots parlor at its new location near Opelousas Dec. 19, 2003. The racino from December through February has generated more than $15.7 million and brought in more than $1.9 million for purses, according to state records.

Evangeline opens for live racing April 1 at its Carencro location even though the slots parlor is located about 10 minutes up the road. Live Thoroughbred racing moves to the new facility in 2005.