Indiana Live makes staff reductions

Indiana Live laid off about 30 members of its 800-person staff this week as the race track and casino’s owners sort through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A spokesman for the Shelbyville facility’s operator, Indianapolis Downs LLC, said Friday morning that the move is part of an effort to improve the company’s operations.

“We are implementing some policy changes that eliminate the need for certain staff,” Mike Geczi, an Indianapolis Downs spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We also need to adjust certain areas that had become too layered with staff over time.”

The layoffs include several service positions. Geczi wouldn’t provide additional details but said they were “across all departments.”

A person familiar with the situation said the layoffs were “clearly connected” to the bankruptcy as those restructuring the company’s debt look for ways to cut costs.

In a bankruptcy filing last month, Indianapolis Downs said it would look for operational improvements as one way to strengthen its finances. The company, whose main shareholder is South Bend-based Oliver Racing LLC, increased its revenue by about 9 percent last year, to $270 million, but has struggled to keep up with debt payments.

Indianapolis Downs reported roughly $550 million in institutional debt in its bankruptcy filing. That was brought on in part by lofty spending to build its facility and the $250 million it paid the state to get a license for slots. 
Ross Mangano, chairman of Oliver Racing, declined to comment Friday morning on the layoffs.

Ernie Yelton, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, said the layoffs didn’t cause immediate concern for the agency since the number is not huge. The commission monitors staffing reductions if they have an impact on quality of service at a casino.

But Yelton said the gaming commission would continue to monitor Indiana Live's situation, since layoffs don’t typically coincide with bankruptcy filings.

“We’re not certain this reduction in staff is related to the bankruptcy. Our understanding is a lot of it is performance-related,” Yelton said. “We want to be aware of any potential consequences of bankruptcy, particularly when it’s something we’ve not seen before.”

Indianapolis Downs has yet to hire a new external manager for the facility as the company remains tangled in a separate legal dispute with its former manager, Maryland-based Cordish Cos.

In a $600 million suit filed in February, Cordish accused Indianapolis Downs and others of trying to sabotage the company's plans to build a casino in Maryland. Cordish also claims Indianapolis Downs failed to pay $8.4 million in management fees and made false accusations when Cordish refused to drop its bid to collect the money.

This week, Indianapolis Downs filed a motion in its bankruptcy case asking the court to suspend that litigation. 

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