Poarch expands empire

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

By By Adam Prestridge
Just when some may have believed PCI Gaming Authority had wagered everything, officials announced last weekend another multi-million dollar business venture that expands the Tribe’s economic arm to Mobile and across state lines into Pensacola.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians owned entity announced Saturday that it will make a $16 million investment in two pari-mutuel greyhound tracks, the Mobile Greyhound Park in Theodore and Pensacola Greyhound Track in Pensacola.
The purchase of the racetracks is the Tribe’s first venture into non-Indian gaming leaving many new obstacles ahead for gaming officials, and is nearly nine months after opening its $235 million gaming facility, Wind Creek Hotel &Casino.
PCI Gaming President Jay Dorris said all local and state regulations would remain the same at both tracks.
With that said, both racetracks will be taxed and regulated as they are currently.
The breakdown of the total investment is $10 million for a 65 percent stake in the Mobile track and $6 million for the same share in Pensacola’s.
According to the Tribe’s governmental relations adviser Robert McGhee for the time being both Greyhound facilities will also operate the same with no immediate plans to pursue housing electronic bingo machines at either track.
McGhee did confirm that the Tribe would offer poker at the Pensacola track, which is currently permissible in Florida.
McGhee added that the Tribe always keeps an open mind when business opportunities present themselves.
Dorris believes the investments will benefit both markets’ quality of life and will secure hundreds of jobs.
Nearly 300 people make up the employment base at the two greyhound parks. Dorris expects to retain those current positions and hopes to grow the employment level. Currently, PCI Gaming employs 1,600 people working at three different sites in Alabama, Atmore’s Wind Creek Hotel &Casino, Riverside Casino in Wetumpka and Tallapoosa Casino in Montgomery. Tribal businesses paid more than $10.3 million in payroll inventory and other taxes last year.
Both Mobile Greyhound Park and Pensacola Greyhound Track have been owned and operated for many years by a partnership comprised of several local families, gaming officials said. These families will retain interest in the respective tracks and will partner with PCI Gaming in the ownership of the facilities. The new owning partnerships will be Mobile Greyhound Racing, LLP and Pensacola Greyhound Racing, LLP.
The transition is pending final approval by the respective regulatory bodies governing the two racetracks, gaming officials said. According to published reports, it could take several weeks to tie up all the loose ends.
The families involved with the dog tracks for more than three decades mirror the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ excitement as they move into the new business venture.
As for Tribal members looking to cash in on PCI Gaming’s most recent investment, benefits are expected, but a timetable has not been set.
McGhee said the acquisitions are intended to bring in more revenue for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in hopes of passing some of the profits down to Tribal members.
When those additional services will begin or what they will be is unknown.
For those that may think the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are finished expanding its gaming operations, they are correct. McGhee said currently there are no plans in the works for additional acquisitions.
The Tribe will, however, invest in improvements at the two greyhound tracks.

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