Churchill Downs Acquires Majority Stake in Rivers Casino Des Plaines

Churchill Downs acquires “crown jewel of Illinois gaming” in latest acquisition deal within the US land-based casino space

Gambling company Churchill Downs Incorporated announced on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement to buy a majority stake in Rivers Casino Des Plaines in Des Plaines, Illinois. The transaction involves Churchill Downs’ acquisition of “certain of the ownership interests” of Midwest Gaming Holdings, parent company of the gaming venue.

Rivers Casino Des Plaines first opened doors in 2011. The property is located two miles from O’Hare International Airport, and is thus able to benefit from domestic and international passenger traffic at one of the busiest US airports. The casino features a 44,000-square-foot gaming floor with nearly 1,000 slot machines and 58 table games as well as multiple food and beverage facilities and an event center.

Under the terms of the deal, Churchill Downs will assume ownership of at least 50.1% of Midwest Gaming and will pay no more than $500 million in cash to complete the transaction. Churchill Downs has thus agreed to buy 100% of the ownership stake in the Des Plaines-based casino’s parent company from Clairvest Group affiliates and co-investors for $291 million and additional units of Midwest Gaming currently owned by High Plaines Gaming, an affiliate of major gambling group Rush Street Gaming, which will result in a cash consideration of no less than $326 million.

It has also become known that Rush Street will keep managing the day-to-day operations of the Des Plaines casino. Once the transaction is complete, the company expects to hold approximately the same stake in the gambling venue as it currently owns.

The deal is subject to approval from the Illinois Gaming Board and other customary closing conditions and is expected to be finalized in the first half of 2019.

Crown Jewel of Illinois Gaming

Commenting on the deal, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said that it came as part of his company’s strategy to invest in gaming properties with “stable, predictable cash flows in diverse markets.” the executive further pointed out that the Des Plaines casino is the “crown jewel of Illinois gaming” and one of the nation’s premier casinos.

The acquisition of Rivers Casino Des Plaines is not the first time Churchill Downs and Rush Street have engaged in a deal of this kind. In 2012, the former company bought Riverwalk Casino and Hotel in Vicksburg, Mississippi from Rush Street.

Greg Carlin, CEO of Midwest Gaming, commented on the recently announced transaction, praising Churchill Downs for creating significant shareholder value over the years and expressing optimism that Rivers Casino will continue to be one of North America’s most successful gambling destinations under the Churchill Downs and Rush Street stewardship.

The recently announced transaction comes as another manifestation of a growing trend of major US land-based gambling companies merging or acquiring properties in a bid to cement their positions in a highly competitive environment.

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