Churchill Downs Peninsula Pacific Purchase Adds Doubt to DiamondJacks

Home » Churchill Downs Peninsula Pacific Purchase Adds Doubt to DiamondJacks

Posted on: February 23, 2022, 08:05h. 

Last updated on: February 23, 2022, 08:05h.

Churchill Downs Inc. announced yesterday that it will spend nearly $2.5 billion to acquire most of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment’s (P2E) assets. One exemption from the takeover is P2E’s shuttered DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Churchill Downs Peninsula Pacific P2E DiamondJacks
The exterior of DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, La., is fenced off to keep potential intruders out. Police say the chain-link barricade has done little to thwart vandals from entering the shuttered casino, which has sat vacant since March of 2020. (Image: KSLA)

Headquartered in Los Angeles, P2E is a gaming operator with properties in Iowa, Virginia, New York, and Louisiana. The company’s Louisiana holding has sat closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

Peninsula Pacific last year sought to relocate its Louisiana gaming license from Bossier City to Slidell north of New Orleans. But voters in St. Tammany Parish — home to Slidell — rejected lifting the county’s longstanding prohibition on commercial gaming.

The election outcome to P2E blocked its proposed $325 million Camellia Bay Resort in Slidell from moving forward. It also put the company’s state-issued gaming privileges into legal limbo.

Potential Buyer Identified

Louisiana gaming law requires that issued casino licenses be active, meaning a company cannot simply hold on to a permit without conducting gaming operations. State gaming regulators allowed P2E to suspend its gaming business in Bossier City as it sought to relocate to Slidell.

Following the local election in December against Camellia Bay, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board informed P2E that it had 60 days to reopen DiamondJacks or sell the license, otherwise the firm risked forfeiture of the concession.

Sixty days have long passed. The board has been willing to work with P2E, as it decides its next steps for the dated and deteriorating riverboat. Gaming regulators would prefer Peninsula Pacific sell the casino and associated license instead of forfeiture, as re-issuing the license would require a bidding process that could take several years.

P2E informed the state this week that it’s in negotiations to sell DiamondJacks to an entity called Foundation Gaming Group. The Mississippi-based regional gaming company owns and operates two casino resorts in Mississippi — the Fitz Casino and Hotel and WaterView Casino & Hotel.

Buyer Experienced in Turnarounds

During its meeting last week, Louisiana gaming officials expressed escalating concerns regarding the DiamondJacks Casino eyesore in Bossier City. The casino is located just off I-20 and has its own exit.

Ronnie Johns, chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, says P2E potentially selling the riverboat to Foundation Gaming is promising.  “They have a very solid reputation in Mississippi,” Johns told KSLA of Foundation.

Johns explained that Foundation’s casinos in its home state were distressed properties when the company acquired them.

[Foundation] turned them into viable, very profitable operations, according to the Mississippi regulators who I’ve spoken with,” Johns added.

Bringing DiamondJacks back into operation will require considerable investment. After announcing its permanent closure in 2020, P2E sold off much of the casino resort’s interior furnishings and commercial kitchen equipment.

The riverboat has also been a favorite hangout for vandals. Local police documented more than 120 trips to the casino in 2020 — or roughly once every three days.

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