After Long Wait, Slots to Open at Delta Downs

by Hector San Miguel

Louisiana's first racetrack slot parlor opens today at Delta Downs, more than two years after Calcasieu Parish voters approved the operation. For Boyd Gaming, Delta Downs' owner, the opening is long overdue.

The company bought the track in April and got approval for the slots parlor in October. The casino company later ran into legal snags and other problems last year. It finally got the go-ahead on its slot configuration plan last month by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

When the first slot-machine lever is pulled, Boyd will have spent more than $165 million on the project.

Calcasieu Parish residents voted in November 1999 to allow Delta Downs to have slot machines. Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs have also been approved for slots.

Boyd Gaming reported the week of Feb. 4 that Delta Downs generated $2.2 million in revenue in last year's fourth quarter without slot machines. Live racing at the track started in November. It has been estimated that slot machines will generate from $110 million to $124 million a year in gross revenues for the track.

"The results of the first few weeks of 2002 and the planned opening of our casino at Delta Downs cause me to look at the first quarter and the balance of 2002 with continued optimism," William Boyd, the company chairman, said in a news release.

Boyd paid $130.1 million to Shawn Scott, the previous owner, for Delta Downs. Scott had bought the track for $10 million. The Las Vegas, Nev.-based casino company has spent another $35 million renovating the facility.

Boyd reported it spent another $5.1 million in pre-opening expenses in October,
November, and December of last year on Delta Downs and the Borgata casino project in Atlantic City, N.J. The company said it plans to spend even more money at Delta Downs in 2002.

Delta Downs is located on more 200 acres northwest of Vinton near the Texas border. It has an 82,000-square-foot, four-story clubhouse with seating capacity for about 2,600, with total capacity for about 5,000. The slots parlor is located inside a larger 60,000-square-foot building. It offers a 400-seat buffet, a 200-seat restaurant, a sports bar, and small food outlets.

The company plans to hire up to 1,000 workers for the track and slots parlor. Under state law, 80% of the employees must be Louisiana residents.

Revenue from the slots is expected to generate more than $18 million a year for purses and $5 million for Calcasieu Parish.