Peninsula Gaming Closes Deal on Evangeline Downs

An Iowa riverboat operator has taken full ownership of Evangeline Downs and acquired the land to build a new track and casino in an adjoining parish.

Peninsula Gaming Partners recently acquired the half-interest in the Louisiana racetrack owned by William Trotter, according to The Advocate, a Baton Rouge newspaper. A price was not disclosed.

In February, the casino company paid B.I. Moody, Trotter's previous partner, $15 million for his 50% interest along with a half interest in two promissory notes, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records.

Besides the track, Peninsula Gaming bought 500 acres in St. Landry Parish, about 11 miles north of the track's current location in Lafayette Parish. The track is moving because Lafayette voters withdrew their support of video lottery machines in 1996 and St. Landry voters accepted them in 1997.

"Moving the casino and racetrack to St. Landry will help provide jobs and have a huge economic impact," State Sen. Donald Cravins told The Advocate. Cravins pushed for legislation that allowed Evangeline Downs to relocate. Peninsula Gaming's purchase of the racetrack almost assures the new track and casino will be built, according to Cravins.

The estimated profits from the video poker machines is expected to enable Evangeline Downs to pay more than $200,000 a day in purses. In 2001, the track paid an average of $75,850.

Except for Fair Grounds, Louisiana's racetracks are being snapped up by casino operators. Delta Downs is owned by Boyd Gaming and a deal is pending for Harrah's Entertainment to buy 95% of Louisiana Downs. Harrah's also owned one-third of Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky.