Caesars plans $180 million renovation of Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon


Caesars Entertainment Corp. plans a $180 million renovation of Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, which includes adding a rooftop pool deck and nightclub attraction overlooking the Strip.

The casino operator is working to raise the money required for remodeling of the casino, formerly known as the Barbary Coast. The company also reached an agreement recently with nightclub operator Victor Drai to develop a concept for the Strip casino.

Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman spelled out the casino giant's remodeling plans and its general financial picture during an hourlong presentation late Tuesday in the Empress Court restaurant at Caesars Palace.

The renovation would include remodeling the hotel's 198 rooms and its 17,200-square-foot casino. It could lead to a new name. The casino, across Las Vegas Boulevard from Caesars Palace, was built in 1979 by Michael Gaughan at a cost of $11.5 million, and its planned redesign comes as Caesars is spending $550 million on The Linq, a 300,000-square-foot retail, dining and entertainment district that includes a 550-foot-tall observation wheel as its centerpiece. That project, which includes redevelopment of the Imperial Palace as The Quad Resort and Casino, is in the same block as Bill's.

Loveman told the invited group of investors and analysts, most of whom were in Las Vegas to attend the Global Gaming Expo, that Caesars is undertaking expansion and renovation projects in key markets, primarily with partners, to increase cash flow.

"We need to find new channels which require us to spend much less capital," Loveman said.

He also said Caesars was planning "an extensive" hotel room renovation for many of its properties in Las Vegas.

EXAMINING CAPITAL STRUCTURE

Caesars Entertainment is the world's largest casino operator, with 53 casinos in 13 states and seven countries. In Nevada, Caesars has 15 properties, including 10 on or near the Strip, such as Caesars Palace, Rio, Harrah's, Bally's and Planet Hollywood Resort. Caesars operates 42,000 hotel rooms worldwide and more than 3 million square feet of casino space.

Much of the discussion focused on Caesars Entertainment's capital structure. The company has almost $20 billion in long-term debt, but the most pressing obligations don't come due until 2015. Most of the debt was accumulated when Caesars was bought out by private equity investors in 2008, right before the nation's economy tanked. The move turned out to be "ill-timed," Loveman said.

"It left the company with a capital structure that was architected in a boom period that has to be managed in a much more difficult period," Loveman said. "This is a very sound, very profitable company with respect to its operations."

Caesars has experienced two straight quarterly losses totaling more than $522 million in the first half of 2012. In the past 24 months, however, the company has worked to extend due dates of its corporate bonds by several years, buying time but paying higher interest.

Loveman said Caesars could take steps to reduce the corporate debt, including raising money from its private equity investors to repurchase debt at a discount.

One option is an initial public offering in Caesars Interactive, a company subsidiary that controls the World Series of Poker, including the live tournament in Las Vegas, circuit events across the United States, a live tournament in Europe and legal online gaming websites in the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Caesars Interactive also controls social gaming ventures through Playtika.

CONSIDERING AN IPO

Loveman said the company wouldn't put many of shares of Caesars Interactive on the market and would only do so if shares in social gaming rival Zynga, which have declined 70 percent in value this year, recover.

Caesars hasn't broken out quarterly earnings numbers on Playtika, which is accessed through Facebook and mobile gaming devices. But Loveman said that may change so that investors gain a better understanding of the earnings potential in social gaming, where customers play casino games for free but can make nominal purchases of virtual gaming tokens.

"You will find that the numbers show a very meaningful business," Loveman said.

In Ohio, Caesars opened a casino in Cleveland, is building a casino in Cincinnati and is developing a slot machine casino at a racetrack north of Cleveland. Caesars is also planning a casino in downtown Baltimore and is bidding on potential gaming projects in Boston and Toronto.

One place Loveman said the company won't build is Macau. He said that he has spoken with Chinese officials and that the company, which spent $577 million to acquire a golf course on Macau's Cotai Strip region in 2007, was unlikely to obtain a casino concession.

"I've talked to caddies, I've talked to everyone," Loveman said. "I don't think you're going to see another American casino operator have a very bright future in Macau."

It is the world's largest gaming market, producing $33.5 billion in gaming revenue last year.

"This is a country that doesn't really need the money and they have slowed everything in Macau very substantially," Loveman said. "There will not be another license issued to an American casino operator."

 

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