Is Harrah’s eying British casinos?

Aug 15, 2006 9:43 PM

According to a London newspaper, Harrah’s Entertainment is examining the possibility of breaking into the British casino market.

Harrah’s is reportedly considering the purchase of two companies: Stanley Leisure and London Clubs International (LCI).

The two companies are in the midst of a $1.1 billion merger, and Harrah’s is believed to be waiting for the merger to be completed before tendering any offer.

"According to sources in the gaming community, the American group (Harrah’s) has made a detailed appraisal of both companies," reported the London Times.

Stanley Leisure is Britain’s largest casino operator whose clubs include Crockfords, The Colony Club, The Mint and The Palm Beach casinos in London.

LCI operates four casinos in London including Fifty and The Sportsman, as well as The Rendezvous in Southend and Brighton. It has plans for others in Manchester, Leeds, Blackpool, Nottingham and Glasgow.

Although nothing has been confirmed by Harrah’s officials, it is thought that the company is keen to expand its international operations because of concerns about soaring construction costs in Las Vegas.

To address the concern, Harrah’s CEO Gary Loveman is thought to be preparing to step up the pace of the gaming giant’s international expansion.

Last year it signed agreements to develop casino resorts in Slovenia and Madrid, as part of a number of overseas developments in the pipeline.

A Harrah’s spokesman said on Monday he had "no knowledge" about any corporate activity involving Stanley Leisure.

In England, the invasion of U.S. gaming operators has been anticipated, but so far most of the casinos available for acquisition have been too small to interest the likes of Harrah’s or MGM Mirage.