Pinnacle spending $290 million in Ohio, Indiana; may sell Atlantic City land

Fresh off the opening of the $368 million L’Auberge Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Pinnacle Entertainment has turned its attention toward two of the company’s Midwest properties.

The Las Vegas-based regional casino operator said it would spend $290 million to beef up its gaming operations that serve markets in Ohio and Indiana.

At the River Downs racetrack in suburban Cincinnati, Pinnacle said it would spend between $250 million and $280 million in multiple phases to add a slot-machine-only casino and other amenities to the facility.

The first phase is expected to begin by the end of the month and be completed by the end of 2013. It will add 1,250 video lottery terminals, food and beverage outlets and at least 1,400 parking spaces.

The Ohio Lottery Commission is reviewing a license application for the VLT casino at River Downs.

Meanwhile, Pinnacle plans to spend $10 million at the Belterra resort in Indiana to improve the 608-room hotel, the casino and restaurant offerings.

The company may have found another resource to cover the expenses.

Union Gaming Group told investors that Pinnacle’s land in Atlantic City, which has been on the market for a few years, is finally generating some interest.

Pinnacle owns 19 acres on the Atlantic City boardwalk that once housed the Atlantic City Sands. Pinnacle bought the casino in 2006 and subsequently imploded the property for construction of a new resort.

The recession caused the company to cancel its plans for the market.

Union Gaming Group managing director Bill Lerner told investors Atlantic City has been making strides to clean up the region, but from a gaming revenue perspective the market continues to struggle.

Lerner said it was “safe to assume” Pinnacle would receive far less than the $270 million the company spent to purchase that since-demolished casino.

“A sale of the land would be a small positive for the market indicating some level of interest in development and setting a proxy for land values,” Lerner said