Churchill Finalizes Presque Isle Sale, Officially A PA Casino Owner

Written By Grant Lucas on January 15, 2019 - Last Updated on January 18, 2024
keys changing hands

Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) is now ready to enter the Pennsylvania casino industry.

The Kentucky-based company completed the acquisition of Presque Isle Downs & Casino last week. Churchill Downs purchased the Erie property from Eldorado Resorts for a cash consideration of $178.9 million. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission already approved the acquisition.

Certainly, the completion of this sale is momentous for Churchill. Perhaps more important; however, Presque Isle can finally begin moving forward on offering online gambling as well as PA sports betting.

Presque Isle ‘a foothold’ for CDI

Nearly a year after beginning this transaction, Churchill Downs officially takes over Presque Isle. As a result, the casino gives Churchill an entry point into the Keystone State.

And a valuable one at that, according to a statement from CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen.

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania and the opportunity to participate in the sports betting and online gaming market throughout the state. This acquisition is projected to be immediately accretive to our shareholders.”

When Churchill Downs began its acquisition in early 2018, Carstanjen conceded that PA online gambling stood as a key factor in the company’s purchase of Presque Isle. At the time, the transaction also included Lady Luck Casino in Louisiana.

“We are excited about welcoming both of these properties to the Churchill family. Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming. The Lady Luck Vicksburg is immediately adjacent to our Riverwalk facility and offers us operational efficiencies in a stable region.  Both properties fit our investment criteria and will be immediately accretive to our shareholders.”

Groundwork laid for Churchill, Presque Isle

Last spring, as the acquisition of Presque Isle entered its early stages, Churchill Downs entered into a partnership with SBTech to expand its online betting offerings. The agreement allowed CDI to build a comprehensive iGaming portfolio.

That platform consisted, “of the consumer website, mobile apps and back-office systems to manage iGaming and sports wagering.” As such, Churchill Downs began compiling the tools to, among other things, start offering sports betting in states with legalized wagering.

For its part, Presque Isle got the ball rolling to offer PA sports betting.

In December, the casino submitted its sports betting application to the PGCB, at the time becoming the seventh casino in the Keystone State to do so. Now with its sale to Churchill Downs closed, Presque Isle can speed up its process, make its pitch to the state gaming board, and begin serious planning for a sportsbook.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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