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Traveling Around - Opelousas, LA - Evangeline Downs
Three very different looking buildings are the pieces that make up the Evangeline Downs Racetrack, Evangeline Downs Casino, and Evangeline Downs Hotel. They are clustered just east of Opelousas, Louisiana, a city of about 25,000 that is located in south central Louisiana.
Evangeline Racetrack originally existed at Carenco, Louisiana, but was closed in 1986 due to financial problems. It reopened and racing resumed under new ownership in 1987. When the voters disapproved of a move to becoming a video poker casino, the track began planning to move to Opelousas. Racing moved to the new track in 2005. It is a 7 furlong track that was rated #6 of 65 tracks in the United States by the Horseplayers Association of America. A history of the activity in the closure and redevelopment can be found on the Wikipedia website.
Through many financial manipulations, in 2012 The Boyd Gaming Group purchased Peninsula Gaming and then controlled Evangeline Downs. It has gradually been branded as part of the group with its B Connected Players' Club system. The Boyd gaming history dates back to 1941 when the patriarch of the family began working in a casino in what is now downtown Las Vegas. Through the years, the family has purchased and expanded until they are now one of the eminent corporations in the casino industry and now have ownership in at least 21 different casinos in the United States.
The casino is connected directly to the hotel and we wandered around, investigating areas without having to go outdoors.
The casino is a slot machine palace that is new and modern with the latest in penny slots. Varying levels of play exit from pennies and nickels through dollars. There are no table games in the casino. It was opened in 2003. It is physically located to the west of the racetrack and south of the new hotel. Entering through the main entrance on the west side of the building leads directly into the slot machine area. The arrangement of the slot machines is in a circular system around a raised area in the center. There is a fencing around the gaming machines so that it appears it can be cordoned off if desired. The slot machine area is occupied by Zydeco's, a 110 seat bar that is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. A walkway on the north side of the casino leads to the hotel while a branch of that walkway to the east leads past the Players' Club Counter.
Continuing down this hallway leads past the events center which in addition to name entertainment, hosts prize fights. The center can host up to 600 for seated dining events and up to 1200 for events such as indoor music festivals and concerts. Close to the Events Center entrance is a gift shop to the west and Mojo's Bar to the east.
The hallway ends at the lower level of the racetrack grandstand where simulcast racing broadcasting and wagering occurs all year. Schedules of simulcast racing are available online for the daily races. Live racing at Evangeline Downs is scheduled for thoroughbreds through the summer months and quarter horse racing normally occurs during the late fall and early winter. Specific dates vary from year to year but more information can be found on line at their website.
There are 3 restaurants in the casino area. Blackberry's in the fine dining establishment but is open only on Wednesday through Saturday. It features a reasonably priced wine list where wines cost from $18 to just over $100 a bottle. Some of them can be purchased by the glass. 24/7 is the coffee shop for the casino and is open to the passerby. Most entrees are priced under $15 and there is usually a daily special. The buffet is the Cajun Buffet. Prices are higher In the buffet - dinner is above $15 and lunch is just under $15 - on the weekends. The food is good and has a cajun atmosphere and quality.
However, after looking around we drove into Opelousas proper and went to Papa's Crawfish House for dinner. It is a plain restaurant with moderate prices and the food was good. We probably would have been better off staying at the hotel and eating in one of the casino restaurants.
The hotel is a member of the Ascend Hotel Organization. It opened in November, 2010. The Ascend Hotel Collection a part of the Choice Hotel Group. In establishing, designing, building, and furnishing the hotel, great attention is paid to detail so that it is associated with the central Louisiana area. The hotel is new and sparkling and friendly as well. It is a 4 story hotel with some 40 rooms on each floor. Rate information is available on the above link. We arrived and were greeted with a small bag containing bottles of water and some snacks to while away the afternoon.