Nature takes its toll on third Churchill Downs track

Nov 8, 2005 4:40 AM

Years ago, grandma warned that things come in threes.

Executives at Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) have become believers of that old saw following the weekend tornado that devastated its Ellis Park racetrack in Henderson, Ky.

The disaster came on the heels of Hurricane Katrina’s partial destruction of Churchill’s Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans and Hurricane Wilma’s impact on Calder Race Course in Florida, another Churchill track.

The early morning Sunday tornado touched down near Henderson then jumped the Ohio River into Evansville, Ind. The track reported damage to its grandstand, infield tote board, and barn area that resulted in the death of three horses. Fortunately, the track’s live race meet ended in September.

Track officials said they were not aware of any serious injuries to horsemen or track employees.

Joint venture

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), the country’s largest gaming company, announced Monday it will join with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT) in building a $2 billion mega resort in the Bahamas.

The two companies said they will be working closely with Baha Mar Development in the project that will be located on Nassau’s Cable Beach.

In commenting on the development during an appearance on CNBC’s "Power Lunch," Gary Loveman, Harrah’s chairman and CEO, said his company’s Total Rewards participants would jump at the chance to leave the mainland to attend a major casino resort just two hours away from Florida. He pointed out that there is just one major casino in Nassau, the Atlantis owned by Kerzner International (KZL), and that the property does strong business.

THE INSIDER: Don Barden’s Majestic star Casino LLC has agreed to pay $253 million for the Trump Indiana riverboat in Gary, Ind., a neighbor to its own riverboat in Buffington Harbor.

The Illinois House effort to ban riverboat gambling has been shelved until at least next January by action in the Illinois Senate.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) has abandoned its plans to seek a Pennsylvania gaming license because the company felt the plan to tax gaming revenues at 54% would make it too difficult to make a profit.

It’s decision time in Singapore. The Chinese community has said it will make a formal request from potential bidders on Nov. 15.

GTECH Holdings Corp. (GTK) has made its first major entry into the slot machine manufacturing arena with the placement of 415 new machines at Lincoln Park in Rhode Island.

Customers lined up for hours in advance last week in anticipation of the opening of Maine’s first slot machine facility. The Bangor property, operated by Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) had 475 machines ready for the crowd.

Veteran casino executive Max Page has been tabbed to head the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor’s Authority. He replaces Jeff Beckleman who is leaving to take a job in Palm Spring, Cal.

Isle of Capri Inc. (ISLE) announced that the Isle of Capri Black Hawk LLC, a joint venture 57% owned by ISLE and 43% by Nevada Gold & Casinos Inc. (UWN) has worked out a $240 million credit agreement.

Columbia Sussex Corp. has withdrawn its offer to buy the bankrupt President Casino in St. Louis, Mo. The original deal provided a sale price of $57 million for the riverboat.

But in Louisiana, Columbia Sussex Corp. has taken over the operation of the Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge. The company bought the casino from Penn National Gaming Inc. for $150 million. This is the second casino in that area for Columbia Sussex. The company also owns the Bell of Orleans riverboat in New -Orleans.

GTECH Holdings Corporation (GTK) has appointed Atul Bali as its vice president of corporation development and strategic planning. Bali has held several positions since joining the company in 1997.

Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment Inc. (DDE) has declared a quarterly cash dividend on both classes of common stock of $0.06 per share to be paid on Dec. 10 to shareholders of record at the close of business on -November 10.

Nevada Gold & Casinos Inc. has hired two new executives. Hayri Gurbus has joined the company as vice president for planning and operational analysis and George Cvek as senior director, information technology. Gurbus previously was with Mohegan Sun while Cvek wore the pinstripes of several gaming companies.