Racetrack and gaming giant Churchill Downs Incorporated has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pennsylvania with an eye on entering Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market.

Churchill Downs has also inked a separate purchase agreement to acquire Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Both properties are currently owned by Reno, Nevada’s Eldorado Resorts, Inc.

Eldorado Resorts owns and operates 20 casino properties in ten states, including Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington, PA.

Churchill Downs will pay approximately $229.5 million in cash combined for both Presque Isle Downs and Lady Luck Casino Vicksburg.

The purchase of Presque Isle Downs is dependent on certain closing conditions. These include Churchill Downs securing a gaming license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Plus, according to Churchill Downs, the deal is also dependent on the company being granted a racing license. The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission is responsible for issuing racing licenses in Pennsylvania.

According to a Churchill Downs press release, the Presque Isle Downs transaction will close in the fourth quarter of 2018.

However, it is also dependent on the closing of the Lady Luck Vicksburg deal. That transaction requires Churchill Downs to secure a gaming license from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. It will close in the second quarter of 2018.

Presque Isle racetrack and casino

Presque Isle Downs opened in February 2007. It operates approximately 1,600 slots, 32 table games, and a poker room. Additionally, there is live thoroughbred racing on approximately 100 dates per year on the property.

Churchill Downs Chief Executive Officer Bill Carstanjen said the opportunity to enter Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market may be what interests the company most:

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling bill in October 2017 authorizing the issue of online gambling licenses in categories including slots, table, game, and poker. The regulatory and licensing process is just in the beginning stages. However, existing casino license holders will have the first opportunity to claim the licenses.

Churchill Downs calls Louisville, Kentucky home. Accordingly, the company has interests in gaming and racing across the country, including its flagship Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the iconic Kentucky Derby horse race.

Additionally, Churchill Downs owns the TwinSpires online horse racing wagering service. Calling itself the country’s premier online wagering company, TwinSpires.com allows players to bet on just about every thoroughbred, harness, and quarter horse race from venues across the globe.

Photo by Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.