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Investors acquire Delaware Park for at least $90M

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After nearly four decades, the Rickman family turned around Delaware Park and has sold it to industry investors. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA

CHRISTIANA – The coalition of investors led by a Canadian private equity firm closed its acquisition of Delaware Park Casino and Racetrack on Wednesday in a sale totaling at least $90 million.

The casino and racetrack’s longtime owners, the Rickman family, announced in November that they had reached a sale agreement with the investment firm Clairvest Group and a newly formed subsidiary of Rubico Gaming LLC, run by experienced gaming investor Thomas Benninger. He is a licensed gaming operator in multiple states and territories and has served on numerous corporate boards, including major casino operator Caesars Entertainment.

White Clay Creek Country Club, an 18-hole championship golf course, is not a part of the proposed sale and will remain an asset of the Rickman family.

The central Clairvest firm acquired a minority share in the property worth $19 million, while one of its managed equity funds took the majority stake at $71 million, the firm reported. It’s not immediately clear how much Rubico Gaming has invested in the venture.

“The Clairvest team is excited by the growth prospects at Delaware Park. We look forward to partnering with Thomas Benninger, an experienced gaming investor, to continue the stewardship of this unique property”, said Michael Wagman, president and a managing director of Clairvest Group, said in a statement.

The property had been owned by the Rickman family since 1983 and consists of over 100,000 square feet of gaming space. They acquired the so-called “racino” when it was at threat of closure, facing increased competition from racetracks in neighboring states. William Rickman Sr., an experienced real estate developer from Maryland, reset the racetrack’s persona with smaller purses that drew cheaper horses still looking to make a break toward higher stakes.

Delaware Park later benefitted from the 1995 legalization of slot machines and subsequently table games and parlay sports betting in 2009. Following the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, Delaware was the first state to offer live sports betting outside of New Jersey or Nevada, further increasing its gambling revenue.

Delaware Park is a multifaceted gaming facility that offers guests live seasonal thoroughbred racing, year-round simulcasting from around the globe, more than 2,300 slot machines on two spacious levels, and a sports betting parlor. It’s the only casino located in New Castle County, the state’s most populated county, and the only Thoroughbred track in the state, with races from May to October. Its signature annual race is the Delaware Handicap, a 1.25-mile event for fillies and mares 3 and older.

The casino saw about $3.2 million in net gaming revenue in 2020, according to Delaware Lottery data. The casino would also stand to draw non-gaming revenue from food and drink, entertainment and more.

The Rickmans sold their other casino, Oceans Downs in Maryland, five years ago to a joint venture by the owners of famed racetracks Saratoga Springs in New York and Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

The owners have been looking to divest the casino for about a year, listing its Kirkwood Highway administrative offices for sale in January 2020. The current asking price for that 12-acre property is $6.45 million.

Clairvest owns an Illinois casino as well as the New Meadowlands Racetrack, a harness racing track in East Rutherford, N.J. It also owns casinos in Canada and Chile, as well as investing in online gaming firms. Upon closing, Delaware Park would be the 30th casino/racino in which Clairvest has held an ownership interest and Clairvest’s 14th platform investment in the gaming industry.

Benninger’s Rubico group acquired the Louisiana Downs racetrack and casino near Shreveport, La., last year. That acquisition cost $22 million for the smaller facility that features just 800 slot machines.

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