Nearby boats fight Boyd’s 1,700 slots

Nov 6, 2001 5:38 AM

The prospect of having Boyd Gaming operating 1,700 slot machines at nearby Delta Downs racetrack in Louisiana isn’t sitting well with nearby casino operators.

In fact, both Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and Isle of Capri Inc. (ISLE) have sued in an attempt to block Boyd Gaming from getting anything more than 500 slot machines.

They argue that when the voters of Calcasieu Parish were asked by the former owners of Delta Downs whether they would approve the installation of slots at the racetrack they had been told that only 500 gaming devices would be utilized. The previous owners were headed by former Las Vegas gaming executive Shawn Scott.

Scott had purchase the racetrack with the sole purpose of attempting to get slot machines legalized at the facility. Purchase price was given as $10 million. The measure was narrowly approved in a November, 1999 referendum. The property then awaited state approval for race track slots which came last year.

Earlier this year, Scott’s group sold the property to Boyd Gaming for between $115 million and $125 million.

Harrah’s has two riverboats in Lake Charles, not far from the racetrack, while Isle of Capri’s two boats are in nearby Westlake. Joining in the complaint was the mayor of Westlake who said he feared his community would lose some of the $440,000 a year in taxes it receives from the riverboats.

An official of the state Gaming Control Board, which already has approved Boyd Gaming for a slot machine operation at the track, said the referendum approved by the voters did not specify the number of machines to be operated nor did the legislature limit the amount for tracks or riverboats.

However, he said, the Louisiana State Police will work with the state fire marshal to insure that the gambling space can adequately handle the number of slot machines approved for the property.

A total of 1,700 slot machines could produce an estimated $125 million to $525 million per year in gross revenue, officials said.