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Mega-mergers to affect gaming
developments in several states

Jul 20, 2004 4:33 AM

America’s gaming landscape will be in for drastic changes over the next couple of years what with the recently announced industry mergers and acquisitions, the addition of one or more major states permitting racetrack slots, and the growth of tribal gaming.

Assuming regulators approve the mega-mergers involving MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) and its acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group (MBG), and last week’s announced purchase of Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), most of the Las Vegas Strip will be dominated by these two companies.

But, there will be repercussions outside the Las Vegas gaming Mecca, as well.

It has been speculated by gaming analysts that both MGM MIRAGE and Harrah’s will have to piece off some of their properties to satisfy regulators. Certainly, some of these will be highly coveted by smaller gaming companies. The Atwater Group that shares ownership with Mandalay of a casino in Detroit will no doubt take over the portion of the property it doesn’t already own. And multi-faceted Isle of Capri Inc. (ISLE) has already expressed an interest in some of the Harrah’s operations.

But, undeveloped operations also will affect the gaming climate. Harrah’s plans to build a casino in West Warwick, R.I., in partnership with the Narragansett Indians, and yet, by taking over Caesars, the company will be in a position to develop a casino with another Indian tribe in the Catskills of upstate New York.

Also, both Harrah’s and Caesars will have potential gaming operations in Pennsylvania when licenses are distributed in that state.

MGM MIRAGE has a commitment to build a 4,000 slot machine emporium at Aqueduct racetrack in New York, a track that is operated by the New York Racing Association. The racing franchise held by the troubled NYRA will expire in three years. Looking to take over the racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga is Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA).

And, it is MECA that owns majority interest in Maryland’s two major racetracks, Pimlico and Laurel. With the recent approval of racetrack slots in Pennsylvania, it is believed that Maryland lawmakers will either approve slots or put the matter on the November ballot.

The additional gaming competition is expected to have an impact on Atlantic City where Harrah’s, through its Caesars acquisition, will have a predominant position on that city’s Boardwalk.

Earnings calls

Gaming companies have continued to announce the dates on which they plan to report on the fiscal quarter just ended. Among these were:

Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) has set its announcement for Wednesday, July 21, at 6 a.m. PDT.

Riviera Holdings Corporation (RIV) will report on Wednesday, July 21, at 11 a.m. PDT.

MTR Gaming Group (MNTG) will announce on Thursday, July 22, at 7 a.m. PDT.

Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) will release it earnings on Tuesday, July 27 at 7 a.m. PDT.

Midway Games Inc. (MWY) is scheduled for Wednesday, July 28, at l:45 p.m. PDT.

Argosy Gaming Company (AGY) has set its conference call for Thursday, July 29 at 8 a.m. PDT.

Multimedia Games Inc. (MGAM) will release on Friday, July 30, at l:30 a.m. PDT.

WMS Industries Inc. (WMS) will announced on Monday, Aug. 9, at l:30 p.m. PDT.

THE INSIDER: Todd Kunesh has been named director of operations for Golden Tavern Group, a division of Golden Gaming Inc. The Golden Tavern Group includes 27 PT’s Entertainment Group locations, as several properties in northern Nevada.

Don Barden’s Majestic Star Casinos has agreed to sell the Fitzgeralds’ Casino in Black Hawk, Colo., to Legends Gaming LLC for $66 million.

Directors of MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) have approved the stock repurchase program that could involve up to 10 million shares.

Analysts at Banc of America have cut their rating on Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) from "buy" to "neutral."

Aristocrat Technologies Inc. has named Sean Evans vice president, sales, a position that gives him responsibility for sales throughout North America and the Caribbean.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack and casino has received permission from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to add 33 table games to its gaming floor mix. The games involved will be blackjack, craps, roulette and poker.

Opponents of a casino to be located just 15 miles from Branson, Mo., have collected $1.25 million in their fight to halt efforts by gaming developers.

A new group called The Thoroughbred Group wants Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) to expand its Charles Town Racetrack from the existing six furlongs to seven furlongs.

Capitol Racing of California has taken an option to acquire 52% of Vernon Downs in upstate New York whose owners have been advised that they must sell the property or lose their license to operate.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) of Las Vegas has petitioned the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for permission to make $26 million renovations at its casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Boyd Gaming Corporation (BYD) has announced that its board of directors has boosted the quarterly cash dividend to $0.085 per share from the previous $0.075. The dividend will be paid on Sept. 1 to shareholders of record on Aug. 13.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s support of racetrack slots to reduce property taxes seems to be resonating with the voting public. A recent survey, conducted by Quinnipiac University, said the new law has the support of 62% of the voters while only 32% say they disapprove.

The trial date for Susan Bala and Raymundo Diaz, executives of Racing Services Inc. of Fargo, N.D., has been rescheduled to Oct. 25 from Aug. 23. The two are facing charges of money laundering and operating an illegal gambling site.

Moody’s Investors Service has raised its ratings on the debt of Alliance Gaming Corp. (AGI) from B1 to Ba3.

Some California tribal casino operators have joined forces to support Proposition 70 on the November ballot. The referendum would permit all Indian casinos to have unlimited number of slot machines and the opportunity to install table games formerly prohibited by the state constitution.