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Maverick Gaming LLC, a small, privately held regional gaming company, is continuing its recent trend of purchasing properties by acquiring Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport along the banks of the Red River in northern Louisiana for $230 million.

The Las Vegas-based company has been on a buying spree in recent months, picking up card rooms in Washington state and several casinos in Colorado.

Eldorado Resorts Shreveport will be Maverick’s 27th casino with four existing properties in northern Nevada, 19 cardrooms in Washington and three casinos in Colorado.

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“We would not be surprised to see Maverick acquire additional properties as larger players look to divest smaller non-core properties and/or Federal Trade Commission mandated sales,” said Barry Jonas, a gaming analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

The sale of Eldorado’s namesake casino had been widely expected given FTC concentration concerns in advance of their $17.3 billion merger with Caesars Entertainment. The deal with Caesars will give the company ownership of Horseshoe Bossier City.

“The agreement to divest the Eldorado Shreveport is consistent with our continued focus on reducing debt ahead of the expected closing for the Caesars transaction in the first half of 2020,” Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg said in a statement.

Jonas expects the Caesars deal to close around March, and the deal with Maverick to close in the third quarter of the year. It’s unknown if Maverick will purchase other Caesars or Eldorado properties as the companies work to create the largest U.S. gaming company.

The property in Shreveport features 400 hotel rooms, six restaurants, and will added 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games to Maverick’s portfolio.

Eric Persson, CEO of Maverick, said he’s hoping to cater to residents of Dallas, which is some 200 miles to the west of Shreveport. Casinos are illegal in Texas. There are a number of legal casinos and tribal casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma that cater to Dallas residents.

“The population in the Dallas market exceeds 7.5 million people and Dallas encompasses the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the United States,” Persson said. “Maverick’s focus to date has been on the growing, vibrant and dynamic economies of Salt Lake City, Seattle and Denver. The company now adds Dallas to that list.”

Shreveport’s casino industry has dealt with increased competition in recent year as new casinos in Oklahoma have attracted Texas residents looking to gamble.

Between 2014 and 2019, the region’s six casinos shed 1,378 jobs and revenues fell 9.1 percent. Eldorado Shreveport posted revenues of $8.59 million in December, down 13.4 percent from $9.93 million in the same month last year, according to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

Maverick intends to fund the transaction primarily with cash on hand and financing from private investment firms HG Vora Capital Management and Angelo Gordon.

Washington sports bet push

Shortly after Maverick acquired Eldorado Shreveport, Persson announced his support for two bills that would create a regulated and taxed land-based and mobile sports betting industry in Washington state.

Last week’s introduction of House Bill 2478 and companion Senate Bill 6277 would legalize sports betting through licensed card rooms, racetracks and tribal casinos on professional sports and college sports outside Washington.

The bills are sponsored by Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, and Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Curtis King, R-Yakima.

A competing effort at legalizing wagering on sports has been focused on limiting betting activity to Native American tribal casinos. House Bill 1975 says limiting betting activity within tribal facilities already accustomed to gaming is the best way to regulate the industry and prevent abuses.

“Legal sports betting will give lawmakers the opportunity to create a regulated system that collects tax revenues that should be used to address community needs,” Persson said. “Critically, regulated, legal sports betting has the dual benefit of undermining offshore criminal networks which currently profit from the unregulated and unsafe system. I look forward to working with Washington’s elected leaders, tribal government leaders, community stakeholders, and all interested parties regarding the merits of this proposed legislation.”

Sports betting is currently illegal in Washington. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to legalize wagering on games.

Persson said his company is committed to creating a sports betting environment that is “fun and safe for our guests, while implementing system-wide self-exclusion policies to reduce problem gambling.”

The legislation, modeled after the legal sports betting system in New Jersey, would create a strict framework of regulations to support the industry. The two bills Persson supports would restrict betting to people aged 18 and over, and carries a 10 percent tax on gaming revenues.

In addition, Maverick has applied for sports betting licenses for its three properties in Colorado, The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission plans to issue up to 33 total licenses for retail and online sportsbooks.

The first licensees are expected to be approved next month, though Maverick and other operators won’t be able to set lines or take bets until Colorado’s new sports betting law goes into effect on May 1.  

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