Harrah’s plans $550m A.C. expansion

Nov 22, 2005 4:44 AM

Decisions, whether domestic or international, await action by the top executives of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), but for the time being the company is going forward with a $550 million, 964-room hotel tower in Atlantic City.

Announced last week, the Harrah’s Atlantic City Hotel/Casino expansion will include 172,000 square feet of retail space and an entertainment complex. The complex is expected to be completed by the end of 2006 while the hotel is expected to be online in 2008. The complex will have additional dining, a spa, a nightclub, an indoor pool and other services.

As for the casino, the area will be expanded to include 400 new slot machines and 20 table games.

Still undecided is the opening date for Harrah’s New Orleans that has been closed since Hurricane Katrina. A company official said the property will be opened in 2006 but the exact date has yet to be determined.

Under repair is the property’s damaged roof and the mold that developed from water leaks, the company said. Also unknown is the number of employees the company will return to work at the facility since the community is suffering from a loss of residents and a major drop in tourism.

The property’s 2,600 employees will be paid through Nov. 26 while their health benefits will be continued.

Also under study are the other casinos that were put out of service by the hurricanes. Harrah’s has said it will definitely rebuild the lost casino in Biloxi but may have other plans for the Grand Casino Gulfport, Miss.

Macau boost

Shares in gaming companies with current or potential operations in Macau got a big boost on Monday following a report from a gaming analyst at Merrill Lynch that suggested the Macau gaming market will soon evolve into Las Vegas East.

Analysts Dave Anders estimated Macau gaming would swell to $10.6 billion in 2009 from the $5.2 billion in 2004. He also expects the number of casinos in Macau to grow from 17 in 2004 to over 25 by 2009 with the bulk of new properties opening in 2007 and 2008.

Operating in Macau today is Las Vegas Sands Inc. (LVS) while properties are under construction for both Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) and MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM).

In Monday trading, Wynn Resorts rose $3.30 to $57.71 per share; Las Vegas Sands Corp. was up $2.58 to $44.47, and MGM MIRAGE Inc. increased $1.77 to $40.32.

THE INSIDER: Wicks Group, owners and publishers of the Daily Racing Form, has acquired the publishing assets of Sports Eye Inc., the New York based publisher of Thoroughbred and Standardbred handicapping publications.

Documents relating to the purchase of the Golden Nugget properties by Landry’s Restaurants (LNY) indicated that the sellers Tim Poster, Tom Breitling and three partners — Chuck Mathewson, Andre Agassi and Perry Rogers — received $163 million in cash plus the assumption of the property’s debt totaling $345 million.

Despite the closing of several casinos, gaming revenues for the state of Louisiana during the month of October totaled $171.8 million compared to $178.9 million in October 2004.

Owners of the Casino Fandango in Carson City, Nev., have announced plans for a $100 million expansion project that will include a hotel, amphitheater, housing and a retail center.

Century Casinos Inc. (CNTY) has agreed to acquire 60% of Balele Leisure Ltd., a company that operates a hotel/casino in Newcastle, South Africa.

Lyle Berman, chairman of Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) and another Minneapolis, Minn., businessman, have each invested $1 million for a 10.4% share of STEN Corporation (STEN), a company that operates a chain of fast food restaurants and provides contract manufacturing services for surgical instrument sterilization container systems.

Scientific Games Corporation (SGMS) has been contracted by the Delaware Lottery to upgrade the lottery’s control and monitoring system.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has appointed Gulfport banker John Hairston to fill an existing vacancy on the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

An Illinois administrative law judge has recommended that the state revoke the gambling license of bankrupt Emerald Casino Inc.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has approved a $200 million financing package that will allow Greektown Casino to build a permanent hotel and casino complex as required by law.

The troubled North Carolina Lottery, still trying to put its house in order after ethics concerns, has appointed Tom Shaheen, former head of the New Mexico Lottery, to head its organization. He previously worked with lotteries in Florida, Texas and Georgia.

The Reno City Council has approved zoning changes in south Reno that will allow Station Casinos Inc. (STN) to build the county’s first new hotel/casino in a decade.

Also, STN said a federal appeals court had ruled in its favor regarding a patent dispute with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

Gaming analysts at Harris Nesbitt downgraded the share of Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) last week from outperform to neutral. And analysts at Susquehanna Financial downgraded the shares of WMS Industries Inc. (WMS) from positive to neutral. Harry Curtis of JP Morgan initiated coverage of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK) with an "overweight" rating.

Members of the Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved a reorganization plan for Colony Capital, the new owners of the Las Vegas Hilton.

After much searching, the Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) has decided to move its corporate headquarters from Biloxi, Miss., to St. Louis, Mo.

Shuffle Master, Inc. (SHFL) announced last week it has agreed to acquire Stargames Ltd. of Sydney, Australia for about $108 million. Stargames manufactures electronic gaming products and video slot machines.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.078125 per share payable on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record on Nov. 30.

GTECH Holdings Inc. (GTK) has been granted a five-year contract extension by the lottery company of Jamaica.

Peermont Global, a major hotel and casino operator in South Africa, has elected to withdraw its bid for a casino license in Singapore.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) still struggling to resolve a dispute with the SEC over an accounting procedure, said it will continue to delay its quarterly filings beyond last week’s target date of Nov. 18.