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Magna in line to expand its Pennsylvania presence

Feb 18, 2003 6:54 AM

Although Magna Entertainment Corporation (MIEC) has focused more on acquiring tracks for their racing signal rather than for other gaming sources of income, the company is playing a major role in the development of racinos in Pennsylvania.

The company acquired The Meadows Racetrack and its telephone betting operation from the U.K.’s Ladbroke horse betting firm a couple of years ago, putting it in a position to install slot machines should Gov. Ed Rendell’s plan pass the legislature.

But the company is also in the running for a thoroughbred racing license that has never been issued by the state. Actually, until the issue of slots came up, nobody wanted to go the expense of building an expensive running horse track.

Plans submitted by Magna officials, who insist they would build the track even if the slots legislation didn’t pass, call for an $80 million facility to be constructed on 172 acres situated about three miles from Pittsburgh International Airport. The property, to be called Allegheny Downs, would be about 18 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh area is also the locale suggested by another group that seeks the available license. Called Pittsburgh Palisades Park, the track is being sponsored by a group of local developers.

Other license seekers are 1935 Inc., whose plans would locate a track in South Versailles Township, and Mountaineer Park of West Virginia, owned by MTR Gaming Group Inc. (MNTG) who would build a track in Erie.

There are five applicants for one available harness racing license.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Racing Commission said the regulators felt there was no "big rush" to issue the licenses and that plans had not been developed for hearings.

Gov. Rendell has indicated that his plan for racetrack slots was based on the four existing racetracks, that, in addition to The Meadows, include Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, the state’s two existing thoroughbred tracks, and Pocono Downs, the harness facility.

Visitor count

There were a few more visitors to Las Vegas in calendar 2002 but the modest increase was hardly enough to have casino operators cheering.

Total number of visitors reported by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was put at 35,071,504, or a jump of 0.2% over the 2001 number.

The report prompted a tourism official to remark, "We have not fully recovered as a destination yet."

That was underscored by the report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board that showed that gaming revenues for the state fell 0.3% during the year, a number equal to the amount reported for Clark County. Total gaming revenues for the state amounted to $9.45 billion.

The Insider

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) has ended its association with its New York lobbying company, Coppola Ryan McHugh. Reportedly, the lobbying firm is being investigated by state officials regarding an allegation the firm had failed to file complete lobbying reports for 2001 and 2002. Harrah’s is not involved in the probe.

Borgata, the $1 billion-plus destination resort being built in Atlantic City by Boyd Gaming Inc. (BYD) and MGG MIRAGE Inc. (MGG), has increased its development to include a 36-table poker room and a 50-seat race book.

Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp., the privately-held gaming company that was formed and operated by Jack Binion, is relocating its corporate office to Las Vegas from the Chicago, Ill., suburb of Tinley Park.

A $440 million casino is being proposed for Austin, Texas, by a real estate developer. However, Barry Keenan, who is proposing the casino, said he wouldn’t qualify for a gaming license since he served four and one-half years in prison for participating in the 1963 kidnapping of Frank Sinatra, Jr.

The Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise said its new casinos, the Golden Moon Hotel/Casino in Mississippi, helped pushed quarterly revenues to $68.5 million, an increase of $11.3 million, for the quarter ended on Dec. 31, 2002.

Scientific Games Corporation (SGMS) has confirmed its guidance of fully diluted earnings per share of $0.41 to $0.44 for 2002. The company will report its earnings on Feb. 28.

Fulcrum Global Partners has cut its 2003 earnings forecast for Boyd Gaming Inc. from $1.21 to $1.18.

Merrill Lynch gaming analysts have reduced its ratings on Isle of Capri Corp. (ISLE) from buy to neutral.

People’s Bank of Connecticut has announced that it will no longer permit its credit cards to be used for Internet gambling.

Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in West Virginia has petitioned lawmakers to permit it to expand from slot machines to the addition of table games.

Nevada Gold & Casinos Inc. (UWN) will hire an investment banker to establish a strategic plan for the company.

International Game Technology (IGT) bought back 1.8 million of its outstanding shares during the month January. The company spent $137.3 million for the shares.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) has set its annual meeting of stockholders for May 1 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.