Louisiana Gaming Control Board Approves Proposed Caesars-Eldorado Merger

Eldorado-CasinoOn Friday, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board officially approved the proposed merger between Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Eldorado Resorts. While the board gave the $17.3 billion deal the thumbs-up, the regulator also criticized Eldorado for lacking in its efforts to upgrade its Baton Rouge casino.

Members of Eldorado’s brass made an appearance in front of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board on Thursday with hopes of helping the merger’s chances of being approved. Getting approval in all states in which Eldorado and Caesars operate is a necessary step for both to go forward with the proposed deal. The lucrative pact was officially announced in June of 2019, and industry experts believe the merger will close sometime in the middle of this year.

Louisiana Board Grills Eldorado Executives

Ronnie Jones, the Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, asked Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg whether he and his team “were up to the task to make sure that you spread attention to all of the properties in all states in which you operate.” Jones cited the fact that Eldorado’s Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel has struggled to meet its financial goals over the past few years and that the lack of renovations is to blame.

Jones also made a note of the fact that Reeg and the rest of Eldorado’s representatives in attendance for Thursday’s meeting did not even stay at the Belle property. Instead, they stayed at L’Auberge Casino Hotel, which is owned by competitor Gaming and Leisure Properties.

Eldorado has invested only $1.1 million since acquiring the Belle, with most of the money going toward refurbishing and upgrading slot machines and gambling equipment. However, Reeg and Eldorado formally pledged to invest quite a bit in the riverboat casino property in the years ahead.

Eldorado Pledges Millions to Louisiana Properties

Reeg said that he and his group “understand that asset in its current state is not acceptable to the state and is not acceptable to us either.” He added that the “situation will be different” the next time they appear before the board. Eldorado subsequently pledged to spend over $500 million in Louisiana over the next 4 years, with $325 million of that money going toward overhauling Harrah’s New Orleans. Harrah’s is operated by Caesars.

Another $110 million will be put toward moving the Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles onto land. The same will be done to the Belle of Baton Rouge. That process will involve moving the riverboat into a nearby atrium that had previously housed a shopping mall.

More Regulatory Challenges Ahead

Shareholders for Eldorado and Caesars both approved the proposed merger in November of 2019. Louisiana was the second regulator to officially vote on the merger after Missouri voted in December, and there are 12 more states that need to do the same before the deal will close.

Reeg said last summer that he would expect the deal to close some time in the first quarter of 2020, but that is looking unlikely at this stage. At the time, Reeg said,

“We’re still targeting a first half of 2020 closing date. If I were to place a bet today, I’d be betting on a first quarter close versus a second quarter close. But we’re going through the regulatory and antitrust in real time.”

Shareholders from Eldorado and Caesars were both over 99 percent in favor of the deal. Eldorado’s stockholders additionally approved a measure to reincorporate Eldorado from Nevada to Delaware following the merger’s closing later this year. Eldorado is set to pay over $7 billion in cash with 77 million shares of stock in order to acquire 51 percent of the new company. Eldorado will also take on Caesars’ existing debts.

Once all regulatory hurdles are cleared, the new company will own 60 casinos with 51,000 hotel rooms, 71,000 slot machines and 3,650 table games across the United States.