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2/25/2012 9:52:00 AM
Hoosier Park parent company poised to bid on Shelbyville casino, racetrack

Scott Underwood, Herald Bulletin Editor

ANDERSON — The company that owns Hoosier Park Casino & Racing is poised to bid on the Indiana Live casino and Indiana Downs horse racetrack in Shelbyville.

Indiana Live/Indiana Downs filed for bankruptcy in April and on Wednesday filed a Section 363 motion in the bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., that would, if approved, effectively place the facility up for sale.

Rod Ratcliff, CEO of Centaur, which owns Hoosier Park, said Friday that Centaur would be among the top half dozen suitors to purchase Indiana Live/Indiana Downs. He estimated the purchase price of Indiana Live/Indiana Downs would be about $400 million.

“Yes, we as a company are interested and have been involved with some discussions — preliminary talks — related to Indiana Live,” Ratcliff said.

He projected that the court decision on the Section 363 motion would be made as early as April.

Hoosier Park itself emerged from bankruptcy Oct. 1. But Chief Operating Officer Jim Brown said that would not affect Centaur’s ability to acquire Indiana Live/Indiana Downs.

“We have new major investors and this would be a decision that we believe, under the right circumstances, could be a very wise investment and further ensure long-term success,” Brown said.

Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs have an intertwined history. They host the state’s only pari-mutuel horse racing tracks and opened casinos within a nine-month span in 2008-2009. The $250 million state casino licensing fee each paid, coupled with the onset of the recession in 2009, helped trigger bankruptcy at both facilities.

Ratcliff said Friday that the state would waive a $50 million license transfer fee because of Indiana Live’s bankruptcy status.

In January, Hoosier Park’s revenue generated was $16.8 million, while Indiana Live’s was $19.2 million. Their facilities are comparable, as well. Hoosier Park is 54,000 square feet and includes 1,899 electronic gaming devices; Indiana Live is 83,800 square feet with 1,977 electronic gaming devices.

Both facilities advertise heavily, including in each other’s immediate markets. Would the two casinos continue to exist if Centaur buys Indiana Live/Indiana Downs? Or would the company shut one of them down?

“Closing Hoosier Park or Indiana Live would be the farthest thing from our mind,” Brown said. “Both facilities offer great entertainment. This would allow more capital to be invested in each facility and make them more regional and resort-like.”

An Indiana law passed in April enabling a single company to own two pari-mutuel racetracks in the state opened the door for Centaur to consider acquiring Indiana Live.

“There’s a lot of synergy between the two facilities being under the same ownership,” Ratcliff said. “The cost of overhead would go down considerably and money could be reinvested in the community.

“We could look at a facility someplace in another state. But from a growth standpoint, it makes sense to invest here in Indiana because of the team we have in place. My heart is in Anderson.”

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