Investors Group Makes Offer for Louisiana Downs

A group of six to seven investors from Texas and Louisiana has issued a letter of intent to buy Louisiana Downs.

The purchase price of the 27-year-old Northwest Louisiana racetrack is unknown because of a confidentiality agreement. The investor group, headed by Shreveport attorney Jim Davis, however, has paid a substantial cash deposit and said it intends to seal the deal within the next 60 days, according to Ray Tromba, the racetrack's vice president and general manager.

"The deal has a relatively short due-diligence period, and Davis has said they have already begun applying for preliminary licensing," Tromba said.

Davis told The Times newspaper in Shreveport that he's known for two and half years that he wanted to own a part of the track.

"We know where we want to go with this," Davis said. "We have gone and looked at a lot of other places, and we hope to combine the best of everything at this track."

Davis led an unsuccessful attempt the buy track with investors in 1999.

Louisiana Downs became significantly more valuable in March when it received a state license to offer 15,000 square-feet of slot machines. The ability to run slot machines also raised the value of Delta Downs in Vinton, La. Delta Downs was purchased for $10 million in 1999, then sold earlier this year to Boyd Gaming for a reported $125 million, according to The Times.

John York now owns Louisiana Downs. He is the husband of Denise DeBartolo York, the sister of Eddie DeBartolo Jr. who controlled the track as the majority owner of DeBartolo Entertainment. Eddie DeBartolo gave up his interest in the racetrack to his sister and John York earlier this year.

With the addition of slot machines coming, York already had plans for $86 million in renovations at the racetrack including a 300-room hotel. The new investors group has not only embraced the plans, but intends to expedite and expand them if it closes deal.

Tromba said the renovations will probably cost more than $90 million and the hotel will be moved up into the first phase of improvements.

The master plan for Louisiana Downs will closely resemble Woodbine Race Course, near Toronto, where a casino is the first floor of the grandstand. The second and third floors of Louisiana Downs, like Woodbine, will be devoted to horseracing.

"We are working on some cutting-edge stuff," Tromba said. "We want to develop a system that allows people to watch and wager on the races from the hotel rooms."

Tromba said the track is also working with slot machine manufacturers to develop machines that will accept pari-mutuel vouchers.

"The idea is to make the money interchangeable," he said.