Sports

Laguna Development Corp. sells off horseracing venue in Kentucky


Forever Sure, with jockey Brian J. Hernandez Jr., crosses the finish line on the turf in a horse race at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., July 4, 2013. Churchill Downs Inc. has agreed to buy Ellis Park for $79 million in cash. The deal announced Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, with Laguna Development Corp. includes Churchill Downs assuming Ellis Park’s opportunity to build a track extension facility in Owensboro. (Mike Lawrence/The Gleaner via AP)

The company behind Route 66 Casino and Laguna Burger is a little bit richer after selling off an out-of-state asset.

Laguna Development Corp., which was founded in 1998, announced this month that it has sold off its Kentucky subsidiary, Ellis Park Racing and Gaming, to Churchill Downs Inc. for $79 million in cash.

The deal was completed Tuesday after unanimous approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

“This transaction is an opportunity to generate a significant profit for LDC and the Pueblo of Laguna,” Laguna Development Corp. President and CEO Maxine Velasquez said in a statement. “The cash generated by the sale provides much-needed capital to improve and expand LDC businesses in New Mexico, benefit our shareholders, and advance future business development efforts.”

Ellis Park Racing and Gaming, a thoroughbred racetrack located in Henderson, Kentucky, was purchased by Laguna Development Corp. in June 2019 for $11 million through Ellis Entertainment LLC, a subsidiary of LDC, according to the horse racing venue’s website.

The company invested an undisclosed amount of money into the property over its three-and-a-half years of ownership to help improve upon gaming and facility operations before selling it off, the news release said.

Churchill Downs Inc. through the acquisition now has six horse racing properties under its banner. The company most notably owns and manages the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, where the famed Kentucky Derby is held annually.

According to a news release from CDI, the company will acquire all of the outstanding equity of Ellis Entertainment LLC and, for tax purposes, the acquisition of Ellis Park Racing and Gaming “will be treated as an asset purchase” to allow for incremental tax benefits that will eventually provide more cash flow.

CDI says in addition to the acquisition of Ellis Park Racing and Gaming it will construct a track extension called Owensboro Racing and Gaming, an entertainment facility at the Owensboro Towne Square Mall. Between the two facilities, CDI plans to invest about $75 million.

“Our team is committed to restoring summer racing at the ‘Pea Patch’ to national prominence and to build a summer meet that keeps more Kentucky-bred horses and Kentucky-based trainers’ in their home state while attracting top horse racing talent from across the country to the Bluegrass State each July and August,” CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen said.

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