Katrina makes Churchill execs think big for Fair Grounds

Oct 25, 2005 5:39 AM

While most of America’s racetracks are looking for a way to downsize, Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) is looking forward to making the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans "bigger and better."

The motivation was Katrina.

In a report filed by Rebecca Mowbray in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mike Miller, Churchill’s chief financial officer, was quoted as saying, "We’re talking about coming out of this with something bigger and better. We need to think a little grander."

The reason for the change in thinking, Miller explained, was the hurricane’s devastation of the city.

The Fair Grounds "can’t be a neighborhood business anymore, because the neighborhood doesn’t exist anymore. Our patrons are gone. The Fair Grounds has not been a destination for tourism in New Orleans. We think we need to move in that direction," Miller said.

Prior to the storm, the company had planned to outfit the track with slot machines with a target date of late 2006. Now, the company said, the slots installation will be delayed with the timetable uncertain.

A new partner

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA), currently developing its South Florida racetrack has found a joint venture partner for the planned development of "The Village of Gulfstream Park.

Forest City Enterprises Inc., a nationally known developer of retail centers and apartment complexes, will join with Magna Entertainment in the development of a 55-acre mixed-use retail, entertainment and residential project in Hallandale, Fla.

Utilizing the racetrack as its anchor, the development will involve 250 residential units and 400,000 square-feet of lifestyle retail shops, entertainment facilities and a lifestyle center.

Online action

There may not be any legal gambling permitted in Hawaii but that doesn’t stop those seeking action ”¦not with Internet availability.

Officials say they haven’t any numbers to go by but they agree that high-speed access to the World Wide Web has stimulated interest in gambling among Hawaii residents.

As one official put it: "They can participate in poker tournaments and other games from the privacy and comfort of their own living rooms without fear of being arrested for violating the law." There have been gambling arrests this year but primarily for clandestine casinos and cockfighting.

A police lieutenant in Honolulu said that if they were to receive a complaint they probably would investigate but it was unlikely to happen.

Hawaii and Utah are the only two states in the Union that prohibit all forms of gambling.

Conference calls

More gaming companies have announced the dates for the conference calls to accompany the announcements of their quarterly earnings. Among these are:

Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment Inc. (DDE), on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 a.m. PDT.

WMS Industries Inc. (WMS) on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 1:30 p.m. PST.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 2:15 p.m. PST.

Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD) on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 1:15 p.m. PST.

International Game Technology (IGT) on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 6 a.m. PST.

Multimedia Games Inc. (MGAM) on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 a.m. PST.

THE INSIDER: Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and its partner, Keppel Land, have entered into a strategic alliance with Centre Pompidou of Paris for its proposed development in Singapore.

Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD) announced it will pay a quarterly cash dividend of $0.125 per share on Dec. 1 to shareholders of record on Nov. 10.

Gaming analysts at Deutsche Securities have upgraded the shares of Boyd Gaming from hold to buy and have downgraded the shares of Aztar Corp. (AZR) from buy to hold.

Also, the analysts at Wachovia Capital Markets raised the rating of Boyd Gaming shares from market perform to market outperform.

And at Harris Nesbitt Securities, the analysts have downgraded the shares of Station Casinos Inc. (STN) from outperform to neutral.

GTECH Holdings Corporation (GTK) has been selected by the Arizona Lottery as the preferred bidder for a new online lottery system.

Remington Park, owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) has begun training 250 employees for the Thanksgiving opening of its new slots facility.

Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) is seeking a new location for its corporate headquarters and has hired an Atlanta, Ga., firm to help find a place.

Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) has transferred ownership of the Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge, La., to Columbia Sussex Corp. with the payment of $150 million.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) has received zoning approval for a $200 million hotel/casino in Vicksburg, Miss.

Jim McAlpine, who led Magna Entertainment Corp. as its chief executive officer for four years, has retired from the company.