Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie is now a Churchill Downs property, and the company is taking it online.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a change of control of the casino’s slot machine license this week. Churchill Downs will pay a change of control fee of $3.75 million to finalize the deal.
The Louisville, Kentucky-based horse racing industry giant now owns and operates numerous racetracks and casinos in at least eight states.
The Churchill-Eldorado deal
It originally planned to purchase Presque Isle Downs & Casino and the Lady Luck Vicksburg hotel and casino in Mississippi from Eldorado. However, the $51 million sale of the Mississippi casino was canceled in July 2018 after antitrust concerns were raised.
Churchill and Eldorado reworked the deal so that Churchill’s $179 million purchase of Presque Isle Downs & Casino will go ahead. However, it will now pay Eldorado a $5 million termination fee and take over operations of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin instead, at a cost of $100,000.
When details of the original transaction were made public in February, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said PA passing online gambling legislation was a major reason why:
“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”
Presque Isle Downs online casino
A clear picture of Churchill Downs’ PA online gambling plans also emerged this week when the company applied for online slots and online table games licenses at a cost of $4 million each.
Apparently, Churchill Downs will not be pursuing online poker under the Presque Isle Downs & Casino banner. However, an online casino is on its way.
Its plans for a Presque Isle Downs & Casino retail or mobile sportsbook are not so clear.
In fact, at the meeting approving its operator change, Churchill Downs representatives said its PA sports betting plan is still up in the air:
“We’re very interested, but have some concerns.”
Churchill Downs and SBTech
In May, Churchill Downs announced it had entered into a strategic partnership with sports betting and iGaming platform supplier SBTech. The partnership will ultimately see SBTech provide its integrated technology platform for sports betting and iGaming solutions to Churchill Downs across the United States.
In fact, SBTech said it will provide Churchill with both its sports betting platform and Chameleon360 iGaming platform. Whether that complete product will roll out in Pennsylvania under the Presque Isle Downs & Casino banner remains to be seen.
Already taking bets online
In the meantime, Churchill Downs is already taking bets online in Pennsylvania. Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires online horse race wagering service has been in operation since 2007. It takes online bets on almost every horse race available in more than 30 states, including Pennsylvania.
The casino at Presque Isle Downs & Casino features 1,500 slot machines and a little more than 30 table games.
In 2017, Presque Isle Downs & Casino posted $111,164,968 in slot machine revenue, putting it 10th among the state’s 12 casinos. Additionally, its $14,470,503 in table games revenue made it 11th of 12 PA casinos in that category.