New operator, owner take over at The Meadows

Michael Bradwell
Observer Reporter

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino has a new owner and operator.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday unanimously approved the change of control of the slot machine license held by Washington Trotting Association, operator of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, to Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.

The board also approved the transfer of the real estate assets of the North Strabane Township gaming and entertainment venue to Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. of Wyomissing.

Under the approved agreement, Pinnacle, a publicly traded company, will become operator of the casino and racetrack facility, while GLPI will own the real estate and lease the property to Pinnacle.

PGCB said Pinnacle, as the new slot machine license-holder, will pay the commonwealth a change-of-control fee of $2.5 million.

With the addition of The Meadows site, Pinnacle now operates 16 casinos in 10 states in 14 different markets, employing about 17,000 people.

Gaming & Leisure Properties, a real estate investment trust focused on gaming properties, was spun off from Penn National Gaming in 2013. It currently holds 33 properties under lease – including the 16 operated by Pinnacle – accounting for 14.7 million total square feet of building space in 14 states. Its portfolio includes 35 assets in more than 20 markets.

Wednesday’s action by the gaming control board brought closure to a deal announced in December, when GLPI purchased The Meadows for $440 million from the previous owner, Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts LLC.

At the time of the purchase, GLPI said it was seeking an operator for the facility, which ultimately became Pinnacle.

A history of growth

CCR purchased The Meadows in 2004 from Magna Entertainment Corp. for $200 million. In June 2007, CCR opened the casino in a temporary building it constructed on the edge of the main parking lot of the former Meadows Racetrack.

Two years later, in July 2009, CCR opened a 180,000-square-foot facility – one of the largest gaming facilities on the East Coast.

In addition to operating more than 3,000 slot machines and 67 table games, the casino property includes 11 casual and fine-dining restaurants and lounges, a 24-lane bowling alley and a 5/8-mile racetrack with a 500-seat grandstand. Earlier this summer, it opened an 11,000-square-foot events center.

The presence of the casino also spawned additional development along Racetrack Road, including numerous hotels and The Street at The Meadows, a mixed-use retail and apartment complex adjacent to The Meadows property.

The casino also became one of the county’s largest employers under CCR’s ownership, with about 1,300 full- and part-time workers.

Troy Stremming, Pinnacle’s executive vice president of government relations and public affairs, said later Wednesday that all current Meadows employees will be transferred to Pinnacle.

He said it was too early to talk about changes the company may make at the site, adding that the transaction announced Wednesday remains in transition.

In the meantime, Stremming said Pinnacle will continue to evaluate the facility and the market before embarking on any new projects or promotions.

He said Rod Centers will take over as general manager of the facility, adding that former Meadows GM Sean Sullivan has been retained by the company in another capacity.