Delaware Park Casino Sold to Clairvest Group and Former Caesars Board Member

Posted on: November 7, 2021, 06:30h. 

Last updated on: November 7, 2021, 07:38h.

Delaware Park will soon have a new owner for the first time in 38 years.

Delaware Park casino Clairvest Rubico
A vintage postcard from Delaware Park. The Wilmington horse racetrack and casino is being sold to Clairvest Group and Rubico Gaming. (Image: Delaware Park Race Track)

The storied thoroughbred horse racetrack and casino, located in Wilmington, is being sold to Canadian private equity firm Clairvest Group and Rubico Gaming LLC. Rubico is a gaming entity controlled by Thomas Benninger, the founder of Global Leveraged Capital Advisors and a former board member of Caesars Entertainment.

Delaware Park is being sold by the Rickman family, whose late patriarch William Rickman Sr. bought the racetrack in 1983. No purchase price was revealed. But a release from the involved entities said the sale is expected to close before the end of the year. The purchase does not include the casino’s White Clay County Club, which will remain under Rickman family ownership.

[The family] felt this was the right time to sell,” said Delaware Park President Bill Fasy, speaking to Delaware Online.

Rickman Sr. died in 2005. His son, William Rickman Jr., has overseen the casino and racetrack’s operations since 1993. But now in his mid-70s, the younger Rickman is ready to pass the racino on to new owners. The Rickmans also previously owned Ocean Downs in Maryland, but sold the Eastern Shore casino in 2017 to Churchill Downs.

Delaware’s prominent Du Pont family Delaware Park in 1937. It fared well during its early decades, but fell on financial hardship in the 1970s due to increased competition. Rickman Sr. managed to turn the track profitable after taking it over, and Rickman Jr. brought casino gambling to the property in 1995, following state approval.

Today, the 100,000-square-foot Delaware Park Casino features more than 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, a poker room, and a sportsbook.

Clairvest Gaming Expansion

Clairvest Group owns an undisclosed position in the Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment harness racetrack and FanDuel sportsbook. The Ontario-based firm additionally has investments in Chilean Gaming Holdings and the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Alberta.

Clairvest’s purchase of a stake in Delaware Park shows that the private equity group is bullish on the US gaming industry. But Clairvest has much grander gaming ambitions.

Clairvest is seeking to build a $4.3 billion integrated resort in Japan’s Wakayama. The prefecture selected Clairvest as its IR development partner during the summer.

In September, Clairvest announced that Caesars Entertainment was joining its Wakayama consortium. If Japan’s central government issues Wakayama one of the three IR permits, Clairvest says Caesars will help design and operate the massive resort complex once complete.

Rubico Buying Spree

Thomas Benninger has long ties to the US gaming industry. In addition to serving on the Caesars board, the entrepreneur and leveraged capital specialist has served on the boards of the former Tropicana Entertainment and Affinity Gaming.

Benninger assisted billionaire Carl Icahn in greatly overhauling the casino business landscape in recent years. He helped lead Eldorado Resorts’ $1.85 billion takeover of Tropicana Entertainment in 2018, and then Caesars Entertainment’s reverse takeover of Eldorado the following year. The $17.3 billion merger of Caesars and Eldorado was completed in 2020.

Benninger, through Rubico, is embarking on his own ownership strategy of gaming assets. In addition to investing in the Clairvest purchase of Delaware Park, Rubico recently completed its $22 million acquisition of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs racetrack and casino.