Interesting Twist: Racetrack Slots Hurt Boat's Business

by Hector San Miguel

The Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, La., wants to move one of its two riverboat casinos closer to the Texas state line because a lucrative slot-machine parlor at nearby Delta Downs is having a negative effect on its business.

"I think it's a win-win situation for both of us," said Carol Collins, spokesperson for Isle of Capri. "We've lost probably about 20% of our slots revenue to Delta Downs. By moving our boat down here a little bit closer to the Texas line, and closer to the Golden Triangle area, we hope to regain some of that business.

The Cameron Parish Police Jury (equivalent to county commissioners) has called a special election for Nov. 5 to allow riverboat gaming at Sabine Pass. Isle of Capri wants to use a large tract land there owed by the parish to build its new riverboat casino.

A development agreement has been approved by the parish and Isle of Capri. It stipulates that the police jury will assist the Isle of Capri in its efforts to bring gaming to Cameron Parish. The agreement states that the parish would receive 4% of net gaming revenue or a minimum of $750,000 a year if the boat opens.

The agreement also includes a non-competition clause that cuts the Isle of Capri's payments in half if another riverboat, dockside or land-based gaming facility, or racetrack moves to the parish.

Under the option to lease agreement, Isle of Capri would pay the parish $50,000 for the option to lease a 28-acre tract of land.

The Sabine Pass site would put the casino closer to the Texas border than Delta Downs in Vinton and the riverboats in Shreveport and Bossier City. Questions have been raised over the legality of Sabine Pass for use as a riverboat gaming berth. Under state law, riverboat casinos can only operate on certain designated waterways. The Sabine River south of the Toledo Bend Reservoir Dam is not on that list.

Isle of Capri is not the first gaming outfit to propose a casino in Cameron Parish. Former Delta Downs owner Shawn Scott wants to build a racetrack and slots parlor near Johnson Bayou.

Isle of Capri, for its last quarter that ended July 28, said casino revenue decreased $4.2 million "primarily due to the addition of a competitor, Delta Downs."

Isle of Capri owns and operates riverboat, dockside, and land-based casinos at 14 sites in Louisiana, Colorado, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada. It also operates Pompano Park, a Standardbred racetrack in Pompano Beach, Fla.