Nev. regulators approve Icahn control of 9 casinos

Jan 22, 2010 10:46 PM

Nevada gambling regulators on Thursday approved billionaire investor Carl Icahn's plan to control nine casinos in four states as part of the bankruptcy reorganization of Tropicana Entertainment LLC.

The plan involves casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, Indiana and Louisiana, and still must be approved by regulators in New Jersey because the company owns assets there.

Under the plan, Tropicana is reorganizing as a publicly traded company, Tropicana Entertainment Inc., with shares owned by some 150 lenders, said company CEO Scott Butera.

Butera said the casinos will eventually be under the same umbrella with the Tropicana Atlantic City Casino and Resort, which is working through a separate bankruptcy.

The plan allows the casinos to remain open while Tropicana changes its financial structure, Butera told regulators.

"Our goal is to make sure that our company is healthy and has the resources it needs," he said.

The plans do not affect the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip, which is separately owned. Butera said litigation over the licensing of the Tropicana name has not been resolved.

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously granted Icahn a limited license Thursday while regulators examine his complex finances. He did not appear at the hearing.

The approval comes as Icahn is poised to buy the bankrupt and unfinished Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Icahn was the last bidder on the project, but the sale must be approved by a federal bankruptcy court in Miami.

Dominick Ragone, chief financial officer of Icahn Enterprises, said the company doesn't yet know its plans for the Fontainebleau project.

"We think it's a very good property. We're very excited about it," Ragone said.

Icahn's bid for Fontainebleau was the last standing after two other bids failed to satisfy bankruptcy auction rules, according to a court-appointed examiner.

Three additional parties showed interest — two mulling a joint offer — but they didn't bid, examiner Jeffrey Truitt said in filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Icahn in November offered $105 million in cash plus $51.5 million in construction funding for Fontainebleau in November.

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