ACQUISITION CLIMATE IMPROVING? For months, rumors have circulated that Argosy Gaming Inc. (AGY) was being eyed as a possible acquisition target by some of the industry’s biggest operators. But, nothing happened while the share price of most companies declined dramatically.
Now, that may be changing.
"Don’t be surprised to see Indiana legislators approve a bill that would eliminate a gaming law that prohibits an operator from holding more than one operating license," said a pipe. "That would go a long way toward expediting mergers and acquisitions within the industry," he said.
Not only does Argosy operate the top producer in Indiana with its property in Lawrenceburg, it also has a major player in Illinois with the Empress riverboat it bought from Jack Binion. And lawmakers there are considering lowering the current confiscatory tax rates.
Look for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) or Park Place Entertainment Inc. (PPE), or possibly MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) to move quickly should Indiana change its laws.
BETTING THEIR OWN MONEY: Got to give credit to the executives of Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) who have been digging into their own pockets to buy their company’s stock while other gaming company insiders have been selling theirs.
Leading the pack is Chairman and CEO Frank Stronach, the Canadian industrialist whose idea it was to package a large number of North American racetracks in order to establish a major horse racing television network. Since last August, Stronach has spent more than $18.5 million to buy just under five million shares.
Although their purchases have been on a much smaller scale, at least nine other company executives have called their brokers to add to their holdings.
SO WHO IS THE MYSTERY COMPANY? Barry Schwartz, the former Calvin Klein executive who now heads the New York Racing Association, was in Las Vegas last week conferring with execs from a major gaming company to install and run the slot machines that were voted by that state’s lawmakers last year.
But he wouldn’t identify his partners, saying it all would come out sometime this week.
Schwartz told the New York Post that he was meeting soon with N.Y. Gov. George Pataki and "if we get approval by the end of the month, the VLTs (video lottery machines) could be here by November."
He said the gaming company official he conversed with told him that they could be in operation within six and one-half months from the time they get approval.
DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES NEED APPLY! Reality television is coming to Las Vegas. At least, the producers of a series, The Swap, will be in town this weekend to scout and audition families for its new show, which is currently a hit in the United Kingdom.
From producer Michael Davis, who is credited with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," The Swap gives two families the rare opportunity to witness what is like to live someone else’s life and experiences. It sounds a little like Charles Dickens’ "Prince and the Pauper," but who’s counting.
In any case, the two women of each family trade places for 10 days. For the first five days, they fit in and adapt to the daily routine of parenting, shopping, housework, creating budgets and social life. For the remaining five days, they will have the opportunity to run the house their way, which may be radically different. At the end of the 10 days, both families meet and talk about their differences. Hopefully, they’re still on speaking terms!
Shooting for the U.S. pilot begins next month. Call RDF Media’s casting hotline at (818) 432-4624 for information on this weekend’s casting call.