Delta Downs Slots Parlor to Open Feb. 13

By Hector San Miguel

Calcasieu Parish, La. officials said the Delta Downs slot parlor opening next week could pump millions of dollars into parish coffers if it doesn't impact the Isle of Capri's riverboats here.

The parish (county) receives about $7 million a year in gaming taxes now from the Isle's two riverboat complex on the west bank of Lake Charles. It's expected to get another $5 million a year in gaming taxes from the race track slot parlor but parish officials said Tuesday they don't know if the race track slots will cut into the Isle's revenues once it opens.

Delta Downs -- Louisiana's first race track slot casino -- will officially open at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13. The Vinton, La. track is already running newspaper ads in Houston promoting the opening of its slot parlor. It's located near the southern Louisiana-Texas border.

William Boyd, company chairman, and Keith Smith, company chief operating office, are expected to attend. Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino is owned by Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas, Nev. It's the casino company's first race track.

Calcasieu Parish administrator Mark McMurry said Tuesday the parish will probably start collecting gaming taxes from the Delta Downs slots parlor next month. It levied a 4% tax on the track revenues more than a year ago. The track will pay gaming taxes to the parish on a monthly basis.

"I think we want to watch closely to see what is going to happen to the revenue stream we get from the Isle of Capri," McMurry said. "I don't know if it's going to hurt them (Isle) or not but one sure fire way to tell is to get a few months collection under our belt to find out if what is happening at Delta Downs is cutting into the amount of money we are getting from the Isle."

In addition to the $5 million a year going to parish coffers, the horsemen industry will get 18% of the net slot revenues to fund track purses. The state will be getting 18.5% of the racetrack slots' "net taxable revenue."

This is different from what the state collects from riverboat casinos. The state gets a cut of the monthly gross revenue from the riverboats.

The new 1,500 slot machine casino will be a new addition to the 240-acre facility near Vinton. The track has been offering live racing since 1973.

Delta Downs general manager Jack Bernsmeier has been in charge of the $35 million renovation work at the track. The grand opening next week will feature New Orleans-style festivities with live music and parade throws. The newly renovated track features two restaurants and four snack shops, a free player's club, multi-track off-track betting, and special events. The track is expected to hire more than 1,000 employees for its new facility with 80% of them required to be Louisiana residents.