Isle finishes fiscal year with strong quarter; but revenues fall 4.4% at Bettendorf gambling boat

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. finished its fiscal year ended April 26 with net revenues up more than 4 percent to $996 million and earnings of $5.2 million, or 13 cents per share, for the 12-month period.

Analysts following the company were pleased with the overall results, but the performance at Bettendorf's Isle of Capri was one of the few negatives for the fourth quarter as net revenues at the riverboat casino fell more than 4.4 percent, or $837,000.

Of the Isle's 14 casinos, Bettendorf, Natchez, MS and Lake Charles, LA were the only properties to post revenue declines in the fourth quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

"The continued proliferation of VLTs (video slot machines in bars) in Illinois affected Bettendorf's results during the quarter, as well as the ongoing renovations of the South Tower hotel, which resulted in approximately one-third fewer rooms being available during the period," Isle President and Chief Executive Officer Virginia McDowell, said in the company's news release.

"Additionally, we sold Rhythm City (the Davenport riverboat casino) during last year's fourth quarter," McDowell said. "Following the sale, that property was closed for several days during the transition which benefited Bettendorf."

The Isle recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 82,000-square-foot land-based casino in Bettendorf. The company said it will spend up to $60 million on the one-story gambling facility and adjacent restaurants over the next 12 to 14 months. While site work has begun on the new facility, located between the two Isle hotels along the Mississippi River in downtown Bettendorf, the city and the Isle have yet to sign a new development agreement.

Under the current development agreement, the Isle would be entitled to a 10-year Tax Increment Financing (TIF) rebate, for an investment in excess of $20 million in a land-based facility. The current agreement requires a minimum $40 million assessed valuation on the Isle's riverfront property through 2016.

In response to a question during the Isle's conference call with analysts, McDowell said management determined going to a land-based Bettendorf gambling facility was the best option to maintain market share in the Quad Cities. Faced with a land-based casino currently operating in Rock Island and the coming land-based casino near I-80 in Davenport, "doing nothing" was the worst option.

She said building a land-based facility would complement the existing "non-gaming amenities," including the Isle's two hotels, the city-owned convention center and the Isle's adjacent exhibition center.

CLICK HERE to access the full Isle fourth quarter and fiscal year financial report on the SEC's web site.

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