Boyd diversifies with Dania Jai Alai

Jun 6, 2006 6:02 AM

If a racino can make money for Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) why wouldn’t a jai-alai casino?

In the coming months, Boyd will answer that question after building a slots operation at one of America’s last remaining jai-alai frontons, Dania Jai Alai, located near busy Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida.

Last week, Boyd announced that it had agreed to purchase the facility — one of four pari-mutuel operations that were approved for slot machines by Broward County voters last November — for $152.5 million. The deal includes about 50 acres of related real estate.

Other facilities planning slots installations are: Gulfstream Park thoroughbred track, Pompano Park harness track, and Hollywood Greyhound Park

Boyd officials indicated they plan to continue the current operations of jai-alai games, off-track betting and card tables with slots to be added sometime in early 2008 following a 12-month build-out.

Of particular interest to Boyd was the fronton’s location.

"As the closest gaming facility to Fort Lauderdale," said Bill Boyd, company chairman and CEO, "we believe that the combination of our location and a first-class gaming experience will make our development a top choice for the nearby population centers."

Immediate competition for the gaming dollar will come from Indian casinos that have grown in recent years.

Each of the four pari-mutuel operations are authorized to install up to 1,500 Class III slot machines.

Pompano Park, owned by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) is expected to have its slot machines operating by the latter part of 2006, followed by privately-owned Hollywood Greyhound Park. Gulfstream Park, owned by Magna Entertainment Corporation (MECA), is believed to be a year or more away from opening its slots facility.

During the past two years, Boyd has been successfully operated Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino in Louisiana, a facility the company acquired for $110 million after the legislature approved the installation of slot machines on the property.

Dania Jai Alai has been operated for a number of years by Steve Snyder and his management team. Although a popular tourist attraction a decade or so ago, the facility has been troubled in recent times with declining attendance. Last year, the fronton handled some $12 million in wagers.