Nevada casino company gets approval to become gambling giant

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FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015, file photo, a man takes pictures of Caesars Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas. A $17.3 billion buyout creating the world's biggest casino company has final regulatory approval. The New Jersey state Casino Control Commission voted Friday, July 17, 2020 to let Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts acquire Caesars Entertainment Corp. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

A $17.3 billion buyout creating the world’s biggest casino company won final approval Friday, with New Jersey gambling regulators agreeing to let Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts Inc. acquire Caesars Entertainment Corp.

It comes after an antitrust analyst had assured the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that the deal affecting four of the nine casino-resorts in Atlantic City would not concentrate too much of the local gambling economy in one company’s hands.

“The stakes could not be any higher,” Commissioner Alisa Cooper said before joining Chairman James Plousis in voting for the deal.

Plousis said he was satisfied after two days of hearings that Eldorado executives had been “honest about the challenges that lie ahead" and “acknowledged the importance of Atlantic City to their success."

Eldorado is expected to close the deal in coming days, vaulting a company that began with a single family-owned casino-hotel in Reno, Nevada, in 1973 to the top of the gambling ownership world. It will have 52 properties in 16 U.S. states, including Las Vegas Strip casino-resorts like Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Flamingo and Linq.

The buyout also affects Caesars properties in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Canada and a golf course in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn will be the largest single shareholder, with more than 10% of the combined company, Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg said this week. Icahn acquired a large block of Caesars shares after that company emerged from bankruptcy protection in late 2017 and pushed for the sale.

Eldorado plans to buy Caesars stock at $12.30 per share, using $8.70 in cash and the remainder in Eldorado shares, Reeg told Nevada regulators. Eldorado will own 56% of the merged company, which will continue operations and stock trading under the name Caesars Entertainment Inc.