The biggest and best for 2004

Dec 28, 2004 7:10 AM

The following are the top 10 stories affecting major gaming companies and the industry in ­­general.

No. 1 The merger of MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) and Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) for $7.9 billion or $71 per share. This will give the combined company control of some 36,000 rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. Assuming federal and state regulatory approval is forthcoming, the merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2005.

No. 2 The merger of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) for $9.4 billion or the equivalent of $16.92 per share, making the combined units the largest gaming company in the country. The merger also awaits federal and state regulatory approval.

No. 3 The expansion of casino gaming in the Chinese enclave of Macau that is expected to make the community, just 40 miles from Hong Kong, the largest gaming location in the world. Leading the development are the Las Vegas Sands Inc. (LVS) whose initial public offering set a two-year record at the New York Stock Exchange, and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) whose share price has skyrocketed on the basis of the April opening of a $2.5 billion resort in Las Vegas, and the planning for a $650 million resort in Macau.

No. 4 The casino controversy in California where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger negotiated new gaming compacts with 10 tribes that agreed to pay a portion of their revenues to the state. These compacts were opposed by three major tribal casino operators. They attempted to overturn the pacts with a referendum in November. Voters rejected the effort.

No. 5 The impact of poker on the nation’s casinos that grew with major exposure on cable television through Harrah’s World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour. Fueling the development was the ease with which players could gain access to major tournaments through the Internet.

No. 6 The purchase of Horseshoe Gaming Holdings Inc. for $1.45 billion by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), thus placing casinos developed and operated by gaming legend Jack Binion in the Harrah’s fold.

No. 7 The eventual approval, after a great deal of debate, of the establishment of 14 slot machine centers with a grand total of 61,000 video lottery machines. The slots will be located at racetracks, off-track betting centers and four other sites to be selected.

No. 8 The acquisition of privately held Coast Casinos Inc. for $1.3 billion by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD), adding to Boyd’s locals exposure in the Las Vegas area. Shareholders in Coast received $495 million in cash and 19.4 million shares of Boyd stock.

No. 9 The expected deregulation of gambling in England that was to open the country to scores of casinos. However, after reviewing proposals for gaming expansion, the ruling Labor Party reduced the number of casinos licenses, causing potential casino operators to lose much of their enthusiasm.

No. 10 The approval in November of a statewide vote permitting horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons to install video lottery machines, provided they receive local approval in a vote to be conducted sometime in the spring of 2005.