Belterra owner buys Cincinnati racetrack for $45 million

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment announced Friday that it is buying River Downs Racetrack in southeast Cincinnati for $45 million. The price includes 155 acres, 35 of which are undeveloped.

The deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011, is subject to approval by the Ohio State Racing Commission.

Pinnacle, which owns nearby Belterra Casino in Indiana, is gambling that Ohio will continue with plans to allow racetracks to add video lottery terminals.

"If VLTs are allowed in Ohio, Pinnacle will revitalize River Downs as a unique gaming entertainment destination in Cincinnati," Anthony Sanfilippo, Pinnacle president and chief executive, said in a press release.

Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich has said that before moving ahead, he wants to study plans, approved by the state legislature in 2009, to let tracks put in 17,500 electronic slot machines.

In the area, competing with Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, there already are three riverboat casinos, and a standalone casino in Cincinnati is on the way.