Harrah's Purchase of Louisiana Downs OK'd

The transfer of Louisiana Downs' horse-racing license to Harrah's Bossier City Investment Co. is nearly complete after the Louisiana Racing Commission approved the move Thursday.

The Bossier City racetrack plans to reopen in June with slot machines.

Finalization of the $73.25 million sale is expected Friday. All but $1 million goes to Dr. John York, son-in-law of the late Edward DeBartolo Sr., who bought the track in 1973.

Harrah's and several area investors say the the total investment for the project is $183 million.

Anthony Sanifilippo, Harrah's central division president, announced plans to give improve the track, stables and entrance in time for the coming season. Also planned is a 900-slot machine casino to be housed in the existing clubhouse, which will undergo a $41 million renovation.

Sanifilippo also said three restaurants would be added by the start of the 2004 season.

Harrah's also announced it is exploring construction of a hotel and parking garage on the track site.

"We are excited on many fronts," Harrah's Central Division President Anthony Sanfilippo said. "This is a new business for Harrah's. So it's the start of something special for us."

The new owners must formally apply for a slots license, but have already received preliminary approval.

Ray Tromba, general manager of Louisiana Downs, is moving to Harrah's to become a vice president in charge of track operations, the company announced.

The commission approved the transfer 13-1.

"I think everybody wins with this," commission Chairman Albert Stall said. "It's a win all the way around."