NYSGC Approves New York Casino License Transfer To Churchill Downs

Written By Grant Lucas on November 2, 2022
NY Casino License Transfer Del Lago New Owner Churchill Downs Incorporated

Change is underway at del Lago Resort & Casino.

The New York State Gaming Commission last week approved the NY casino license changeover from del Lago to Churchill Downs Incorporated, giving the property’s new owner control over the upstate New York casino.

Earlier this year, Churchill Downs announced it had entered into a purchasing agreement to acquire all the assets of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment LLC (P2E), which owned del Lago as well as other properties in other states. As such, the commission had to review the incoming owner and approve a license transfer.

Because of its history in the industry, not only in the casino space but also in horse racing, the NYSGC signed off on the transfer.

Said Maureen Adams, senior vice president for gaming operations at Churchill Downs: “We’re very excited about this deal.

“We’ve had the opportunity to visit the property in upstate New York. It certainly is beautiful and well-run. … I think it’s a large part of that community and something we’ll be very proud of. So we’re looking forward to working with everyone.”

Churchill Downs finalizing ownership of del Lago casino

As noted, in February 2022, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs acquired del Lago as part of a $2.5 billion deal to take over P2E.

At the time, Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen said the his company was “excited to acquire and plan to strategically grow” Peninsula Pacific’s assets (including del Lago) “in the years ahead.”

Lance Young, general manager of del Lago, noted that the ownership change would not lead to employee changes. On top of that, there would not be any significant impact on the casino’s business partners or guests.

“I am enthused that del Lago Resort & Casino is becoming part of an iconic company that continues to revolutionize our industry. Our team will be laser-focused on continuing to provide an unforgettable experience for our guests while also burgeoning our strong partnerships with local and state leaders.”

New York casino now part of Churchill Downs family

Opened in 2017, the $440 million del Lago casino spans 96,000 square feet that features an array of amenities:

  • About 1,700 slot machines
  • 80 table games
  • 205-room hotel
  • Nine restaurants and bars

Del Lago is also home to a retail sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook NY, which accepted its first brick-and-mortar bets in August 2019.

Of course, Churchill Downs is well-known for its horse racing exploits, namely the Kentucky Derby. The company also owns TwinSpires, which accepts online horse betting in New York as well as in other select jurisdictions.

Getting in on NY casino game without going downstate

Certainly the casino gambling buzz in New York surrounds the downstate expansion of land-based casinos. Getting in there, however, will prove costly to interested parties. While gaming companies covet access to the New York City-area population, Churchill Downs still gets in on the New York landscape without the hefty price tag.

After all, it is expected that downstate NY casino licenses could go for as little as $1 billion, according to the one-house budget proposed by the New York Senate.

What’s more, there is already plenty of interest and money spent just to get in on the competitive bidding process.

Existing video lottery terminals Resorts World NYC and Empire City Casino expect to have inside tracks to full-casino licensing. That would leave just one available.

Then consider how many name-brand players have laid the groundwork to obtain that license. Hard Rock, Wynn Resorts, Sands, Bally’s, just to name a few. All with established gaming pedigrees who have either reportedly found partners to potentially acquire a downstate New York casino license or who continue to search for a partner.

Because of a relatively lengthy selection process, officials don’t even expect to award those licenses until 2023 at the earliest.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayNY
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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