More Illinois casinos could
impact Argosy buyout

Nov 9, 2004 7:41 AM

What’s that about regretting being on the receiving end of something you wished for?

That may be the case in Illinois where the intention of some of its lawmakers is to expand casino gambling in that state. The impact could have a major affect on a couple of gaming operations that are being acquired by Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) in its takeover of Argosy Gaming Company (AGY).

The $1.4 billion purchase (or $2.2 billion if the Argosy debt is included) was announced last week resulting in major share price increases for both companies.

But supporters of more casinos, especially one in the city of Chicago and another in the southern part of the state, were encouraged after seeing that the Democrats, the biggest boosters of gaming, have retained control of both legislative chambers in the recent election.

And, despite past opposition to the expansion of gambling by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, casino supporters quickly noted that the governor had recently said he was willing to consider proposals without prejudging the issue.

Senate President Emil Jones said he hoped to have a bill authorizing up to three additional casinos available for consideration this week.

Argosy operates the state’s highest-revenue property in Alton, Ill., and a successful riverboat in nearby Hammond, Ind.

On the plus side for Penn National last week, the Maine Gambling Control Board gave the company a conditional license to operate slot machines at the Bangor Historic Track. However, the company said it doesn’t plan to have a facility available for slot machines until 2006.

THE INSIDER: Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) will release its second fiscal quarter results after the market closes on Thursday, Nov. 11.

Analysts at Roth Capital have downgraded the shares of Mikohn Gaming Corp. (MIKN) from a "strong buy" to a "buy."

GTECH Holdings Corporation (GTK) reported that its board of directors has authorized a new open market share repurchase program for up to an aggregate of $100 million.

Also GTECH said it had been named the preferred bidder for the online and instant ticket lottery needs of the Suisse Romande Lottery.

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who became a well-known visitor to Las Vegas during his political heyday, has received approval for his request to be moved to a Louisiana prison. He was sentenced to 10 years after being found guilty of extortion.

Barry Snyder, who campaigned on the promise of increasing the annuities for elderly Seneca members from the casino profits, has been elected president of the Seneca Indian Nation of New York State.

Adding slots to its gaming mix at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Bossier City failed to appreciably add to the betting on horse races. After adding 22 racing days to its 102-day meeting, the track reported total handle of $205.7 million, an increase of $700,00 over last year’s 80-day race meet.

Absentee ballots provided the votes necessary to push a slot machine proposal over the top for racetracks in south Florida. The matter will again be voted upon in a referendum in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties next November.