Berman to share Ohio's gambling wealth

Nov 10, 2009 4:31 AM
Industry Insider by Ray Poirier |

World-class poker player Lyle Berman definitely knows when to "hold’em" and when to "fold’em."

Last year, his company Lakes Entertainment Inc. (LACO) spent several million dollars in a losing cause, attempting to get the voters of Ohio to approve a casino referendum.

This year, Berman soon became aware that times had changed, and the sentiment of Ohio voters had changed as well. Unfortunately, the legislation for licensing just four casinos did not include him or his company.

Less than a week before the voters cast their ballots, Berman struck a deal with Penn Ventures, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), and Rock Ohio Ventures, a group set up by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Simply, Berman would agree to absorb 10 percent of the lobbying costs (estimated to be $35 million) for a 10 percent share in each casino’s profits.

Voters approved the referendum 53-47 percent. Penn National and Gilbert are expected to be approved to build casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

And Lakes Entertainment will be right there to collect its share of the profits.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Ray Poirier