12/17/2003 1:00AM

Evangeline slots casino opens


Evangeline Downs will become the third track in Louisiana to operate a slots casino on Friday night when it opens a 1,627-machine facility at its future site in Opelousas, La. Racing operations will not move to Opelousas until 2005, but revenues from slots will supplement Evangeline's purses immediately, beginning with the track's Thoroughbred meet that opens April 1, 2004.

The 80,000 square-foot casino is opening three months earlier than expected. It is the country's first racino, or racetrack and casino, to be built from the ground up, according to officials with Evangeline.

The racing side of operations will include a one-mile dirt track, a seven-furlong turf track, a grandstand, and accommodations for 1,000 horses. Construction is scheduled to be complete by late 2004.

Evangeline must move to Opelousas because slots were not approved in the parish in which it is now located, near Lafayette, La.