Delta Downs Gets Approval for Slots Expansion

by Hector San Miguel

Delta Downs near Vinton, La., won approval to enlarge its slot-machine parlor to an overall size of more than 40,000 square feet.

The state Gaming Control Board approved the bigger floor plan Tuesday at its monthly meeting at the State Capital in Baton Rouge, La. Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas, which owns the track, is expanding and reconfiguring the slot parlor in three phases. It will have wider aisles and one wide entrance instead of six entrances.

The required 15,000 square feet of gaming space in the slot parlor remains close to the same. Once completed, the newly configured 42,000-square-foot building will hold up to 4,500 people and offer 1,462 slot machines. This is down from the existing 1,495.

The slot parlor changes are part of a proposed $50 million renovation and expansion project at the track. A 203-room hotel is part of the project.

Paul West, representing Boyd, told the board that legislation was approved in the spring to allow racetracks to widen their aisles in the slot parlors. Delta Downs planned wider aisles into its existing slots parlor to make it "much more efficient gaming space," West said.

"I think when you see the end result it will provide a much more pleasant, safer and secure gaming area where the aisles are wider and State Police get better surveillance.

"Unlike Evangeline Downs, which is being built from the ground up, Delta Downs was a reconfiguration. Some of it did not work as well as we thought it could."

John Sparer of WYS Architects said the final phase of the expansion at Delta Downs will include the hotel, an exhibition hall and more restaurants.

The State Police and State Fire Marshal's Office told the Gaming Control Board the proposed Delta Downs' slot parlor expansion and reconfiguration met its approval.

The board's action came on the same day Boyd Gaming announced its third-quarter results, with the Delta Downs track and its slot parlor reporting a "strong performance."

The track reported a 10.8% increase in revenue for the third quarter compared to the same period last year.

Boyd officials talked about the Delta Downs expansion Tuesday during an investors' teleconference on the company's third-quarter earnings.

"Delta Downs has begun work on the master plan development of that property which will enhance the gaming experience but will add rooms to that market," Boyd Gaming president Donald Snyder said.

"We continue to feel very good about that property's ability to grow and to expand as we add those amenities to that very attractive market."

Boyd officials said Delta Downs had "an excellent quarter" with its slot machines, generating $251 per machine a day - up from $230 for the same period last year.

Keith Smith, Boyd Gaming's chief operating officer, said the expansion work at track is already under way, with the first and second phases to be done by early 2004.

"The hotel project has not yet been started. We don't expect to start that project until spring of next year. It will take about a year to complete," he said.

Ellis Landau, Boyd's chief financial officer, said the company is unconcerned about the $325 million casino development being built in Lake Charles by Pinnacle Entertainment.