Release of big news timed badly by Boyd

Give Boyd Gaming Corp. an A for effort but an F for timing.

The casino operator showed it was serious about acquiring Station Casinos. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday, Boyd offered $2.45 billion in cash and assumed debt for its bankrupt rival’s 18 casinos, land holdings and other assets

The timing, however, was bungled.

Boyd announced the offer on the same day MGM Mirage opened Aria, the centerpiece of its $8.5 billion CityCenter. The news stole some of the thunder from the hoopla surrounding the Strip’s newest resort and MGM Mirage — Boyd Gaming’s 50-50 partner in the Borgata in Atlantic City.

There is an unwritten rule within the gaming industry: Don’t disrupt another casino operator’s grand opening.

With its $4.8 billion Echelon development shelved well into the next decade, Boyd doesn’t need to worry about repercussions.

More than 450 media credentials were issued for the Aria event; most of the national financial reporters who cover gaming got them. These reporters all but ignored the Boyd filing.

Locally, the Boyd news pushed Aria off the front of media Web sites for a few hours until the casino opening retook center stage.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if Boyd’s public relations staff had wandered over to the Aria event media center at Vdara to hand out copies of the 8K filing.

Sources familiar with the bankruptcy proceedings said there was no pressing reason for Boyd Gaming to announce its intentions Wednesday. Station Casinos has until March to file a plan of reorganization with the court.

Boyd had offered $950 million for a chunk of the company in February and was rejected. Boyd has been trying to insert itself in the bankruptcy proceedings by acquiring about $2 million of Station Casinos’ debt.

Insiders said Boyd wants to push the bankruptcy proceedings to a resolution quickly and the filing meant no disrespect to MGM Mirage executives.

In fact, MGM Mirage Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren was so focused on Aria’s grand opening events, he was unaware that Boyd Gaming had made another bid for Station Casinos.

“Really?” Murren asked, when told of the move during Aria’s VIP celebration.

Murren didn’t seem bothered.

Talk continues to surface that MGM Mirage may want to vacate the New Jersey market because of gaming regulators concern surrounding Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho, the company’s Macau joint- venture partner.

For Boyd to buy out MGM Mirage’s share in Borgata, good relations between the companies must continue.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. E-mail him at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or call 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.

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