First-quarter profits rose sharply at

Argosy Gaming


following last year's earnings blow from a debt refinancing.

The Alton, Ill., casino operator Thursday said net income grew to $21.3 million in the first quarter from $4 million a year before. Earnings per share totaled 71 cents, up from 13 cents a year before and 2 cents ahead of the average analyst estimate from Thomson First Call.

First-quarter 2004 earnings included a $25.3 million or 50 cent-a-share hit from a debt refinancing.

The latest quarter's results included expenses of $2.7 million, or 5 cents a share, related to Argosy's pending acquisition by

Penn National Gaming

(PENN) - Get Report

. Last November, Penn National announced it would pay $47 in cash for each Argosy share.

First-quarter revenue increased 2.6% to $271 million.

Argosy owns and operates six casinos in the Midwest and South. Growth in the latest quarter was driven by double-digit revenue increases at its Baton Rouge, La., and Sioux City, Iowa, casinos.

Excluding special items, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 6% year over year, with the company citing improved performance at its Baton Rouge and Alton, Ill., casinos.

In its earnings release, Argosy announced expansion plans for its Lawrenceburg, Ind., casino, including the replacement of the existing three-level riverboat with a larger single-level vessel with room for about 1,200 additional gaming positions. Argosy expects the project to cost $250 million.

Argosy made the first cut among casino operators hoping to build resorts in Singapore but withdrew from the competition Tuesday, saying it needed to focus on its merger with Penn National.

Early Thursday, Argosy rose 6 cents to $46.14.