11/30/2001 1:00AM

Buyers look to restore 'glory days'


Jim Davis, spokesman for the partnership of investors that has a preliminary agreement to purchase Louisiana Downs, said on Friday that his group's goal is to bring back the track's "glory days" of racing he remembers while growing up in Shreveport, La.

Davis and partners want to increase the number of dates the track races each year from the current 89; increase the budget for the track's $90 million slots casino construction project, which is already under way; and make renovations to the stable area. All of this will be made possible, according to Davis, by revenue that is expected to be generated by the slots casino, which is tentatively scheduled to open during next year's race meet, which runs in Bossier City from June to November.

"That's the whole component," said Davis, a 39-year-old attorney and real-estate developer based in Shreveport. "That's what will raise the purse structure, and lead to the revamping of racing at Louisiana Downs."

Davis said the partnership group will number no more than six people, and that all are residents of either Louisiana or East Texas. Their identities are being kept private as part of a confidentiality agreement, and Davis said there is also a chance the group could change "a little bit" before the deal closes. Davis declined to reveal the purchase price of the track.

Davis did say that none of the partners own racehorses, racetracks, or casinos. "We're all horse racing fans," he said, noting the group wants to keep the current management team in place. "We like the idea of bringing ownership of Louisiana Downs to a local level. And we're excited to be able to be a part of a unique business opportunity, the marriage of horse racing and slots."

Davis said he was involved in discussions to buy Louisiana Downs in 1999 but that a deal was never reached.

Louisiana Downs, which opened in 1974, was the state's first track to receive approval for a slots casino when it was awarded a gaming license from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board in March. The track won a referendum to replace its video poker terminals with slots in October 1997, and is in the initial stages of constructing a casino on its first floor.

When the slots are operational, 15 percent of the net win before taxes is to be earmarked for purses.

Davis and his partners must be granted a racetrack operator's license by the Louisiana Racing Commission before they will be allowed to conduct a race meet at Louisiana Downs. Once they are licensed by the commission, they will have to apply to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board for a casino license. As of Friday, the group had not contacted the racing commission regarding their potential purchase of the track.