Churchill Downs leads purchase of Ocean Downs

by | Aug 3, 2016 | Breaking, Business, Maryland, MD Business

Photo, of American Pharoah before the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, by Skip Dickstein.

by Frank Vespe

Churchill Downs Inc. and Saratoga Casino Holdings LLC yesterday announced that they had reached an agreement to purchase the companies that own and operate the harness racetrack and casino at Ocean Downs in Berlin, MD.

The deal is expected to close later this year, pending a variety of conditions being met, including the approval of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency and Maryland Racing Commission.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ocean Downs is one of two harness tracks in Maryland.  The other, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, also recently changed hands, with the Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, taking ownership.  Ocean Downs is also one of five current casinos in Maryland, with a sixth, at National Harbor, expected to open later this year.

Ocean Downs has been under a private ownership group led by William M. Rickman, Jr. since 2000.  Rickman will remain with the new organization as a senior advisor “to ensure that this strategic partnership is successful,” according to the press release.

Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) is best known in horse racing circles for its namesake racetrack and that track’s signature event, the Kentucky Derby.  The company also operates the wagering platform and says that it has “gaming positions in six states.”

Saratoga Casino Holdings LLC (SCH) “offers 1,700 slot machines, electronic table games, live harness racing, simulcast wagering, live entertainment and a hotel” at its Saratoga Springs, NY location.  Churchill Downs Inc. owns 25 percent of Saratoga Casino Holdings.

The two companies have formed a new company, Old Bay Gaming & Racing LLC, to purchase and operate the Ocean Downs facilities, with each of the two companies having a 50 percent ownership stake in the new organization.  Because of its ownership stake in SCH, CDI will directly or indirectly have a 62.5% ownership stake in Old Bay.

The Ocean Downs facilities include 168 acres of land, a harness track which typically hosts around 50 days of live racing annually, 800 video lottery terminals, and electronic table games.