Churchill Downs to Buy Majority Stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines

Churchill Downs Inc. is raising its stake in Illinois. The company behind the Kentucky Derby announced plans on Wednesday to purchase a majority stake in Midwest Gaming Holdings, the parent company of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

Churchill Downs already owns Arlington International Racecourse (formerly Arlington Park) in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Rivers Casino will expand the company's footprint in the area. The deal reportedly includes $500 million for 50.1 percent stake in Midwest Gaming Holdings.

Landing the deal required Churchill Downs to completely buy out the shares of investment firm Clairvest Group for $291 million. Churchill Downs purchased the additional shares of Midwest Gaming to acquire their majority stake from High Plaines Gaming LLC and Casino Investors LLC.

Rivers Casino has been controlled by High Plaines and Clairvest Group since its opening in 2011. Daily operations of the casino were managed by High Plaines affiliate Rush Street Gaming. Under the new deal, Rush Street will stay on as the operations manager of the casino.

Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, said the purchase is part of the company's strategy to move into markets that are likely to legalize sports betting in casinos. Carstanjen called Rivers the “crown jewel” of the state gaming landscape and a national leader in the industry.

Churchill Downs expects the deal to close within the first half of 2019. The company purchased Arlington Park from former owner Richard Duchossois in 2000. In recent years, Arlington has struggled against heavy gaming competition from neighboring casinos including the Grand Victoria in Elgin.

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