by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

By Ray Paulick


 Stock prices soared Monday in Magna Entertainment, the racetrack company that operates Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland, where voters are deciding today on an amendment to allow 15,000 slot machines at five locations in the state.

The share price jumped by 92%, from $1.82 at the opening bell to $3.50 by the day's close. Magna Entertainment, which also operates Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Lone Star Park, and Gulfstream Park, among other tracks, trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol MECA. One-day trading was the heaviest that it's been since Sept. 30, when the stock plummeted from $4.00 to $1.75. Earlier this year, Magna exercised a 20-for-1 reverse stock split to maintain its position on the NASDAQ.

UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon, Magna Entertainment sent out a press release saying the company “is not aware of any specific developments” connected with the sudden increase in share prices. MECA closed at $3.97 Tuesday afternoon, an increase of another $.47 (13.4%). 

Even with Monday's gains, adjusted share prices are down 95% from what they were when MECA went public in 2000. The company is saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.

Polls indicate the Maryland constitutional amendment permitting slots will pass, though there is no guarantee that Magna Entertainment will be one of the operators of the slots parlors. Approximately 7% of revenue from the machines will subsidize horse racing purses, with 2.5% going to racetrack renewal.

When Magna Entertainment purchased the two Maryland Jockey Club tracks from the family of Joe and Karin De Francis, the agreement gave the former owners 18% of any future profits MECA earned from slot machines.

The company announced Monday that a previously announced deal fell through to sell excess property near Ocala, Fla., where company chairman Frank Stronach had once hoped to build a racetrack.

 Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report

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