Off-track betting site at Mound opens its doors|[05/19/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2007

MOUND – Operators of Louisiana Downs OTB are placing bets of their own this weekend, especially manager Allen Randall.

He’s hoping legions of horse racing fans will rush to the newly-opened facility, just like the 14 horses vying for a win in today’s Preakness Stakes will dash from the starting gates at Pimlico.

&#8220It’s the older guys who we’re always after, but we’re just getting it started,” Randall said.

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Situated south of Interstate 20 at the Mound exit, the building that once housed the Winner’s Circle off-track betting parlor sat empty for three years until May 4, when it re-opened under the backing of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

The corporate parent of Louisiana Downs casino and horse racing track in Bossier City jumped into the off-track betting business to expand the visibility of racing in the Mississippi Delta, said Mark Midland, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs vice president of racing operations.

&#8220We are thrilled to be opening the first OTB parlor in the 34-year history of Louisiana Downs,” he said. &#8220Racing fans in Mississippi, southern Arkansas and northeast Louisiana once again have a location to enjoy racing.”

Patrons can place wagers at windows manned by about 20 attendants as they gaze intently at any one of the facility’s 52- and 60-inch televisions, showing races nationwide via satellite.

As they put their money this weekend on Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and other 3-year-old thoroughbreds running in the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, they can also bring in friends to sit and enjoy a po-boy and a beer at the restaurant and bar inside.

&#8220We have a good product and a reasonable price,” Randall said.

Harrah’s plans to spread the word about the place by holding giveaways, including free Super Derby hats to the first 300 customers Friday and today and daily drawings this month for DVD and MP3 players.

&#8220It’s going good,” said Bao Do, a president’s associate with Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and the company’s Horseshoe Casino property, also in Bossier City. &#8220We’re going to have some other things added here, too.”

Planned additions call for a 48-machine video poker room where Louisiana lottery tickets can also be purchased, pending licensing approval from the Louisiana State Police. Pool tables and arcade games will also be added, Do said.

Louisiana Downs OTB operates under a six-year agreement between Louisiana Downs racetrack and a three-member company operating with more than a hint of the previous business’ name, The Winner’s Circle of Mound LLC.

The original Winner’s Circle was closed by its previous owner, Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas.

Harrah’s, operator of casinos on four continents primarily under the Harrah’s, Horseshoe or Caesars brand names, owned the current Horizon Vicksburg Casino & Hotel from 1993 until 2003, when it was renamed following Harrah’s sale of the casino to Kentucky-based Columbia-Sussex.