Nevada Gaming Commission approves Pinnacle, Ameristar merger

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday unanimously approved Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.’s $869 million merger with rival Ameristar Casinos Inc.

The deal doubles the size of Pinnacle Entertainment, giving the Las Vegas-based company 17 gaming properties plus one resort now under development. Pinnacle owns casinos in Louisiana, Missouri and Indiana and racetracks in Ohio and Texas and is acquiring eight properties in Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Mississippi, Indiana and Northern Nevada.

As part of the deal, Pinnacle will acquire Ameristar’s two casinos, Cactus Pete’s and the Horseshu, in Jackpot near Northern Nevada’s border with Idaho.

“We intend to operate (both casinos) in a similar fashion,” Carlos Ruisanchez, executive vice president and CFO of Pinnacle, told the five-member commission. “Ameristar has done a tremendous job with these facilities.”

The transaction is expected to close by late in the second quarter or early third quarter. The deal is subject to regulatory approval in five states.

The Federal Trade Commission is also reviewing the deal for competitive issues surrounding the acquisition of casinos in St. Louis, and Lake Charles, La. Regulators in Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana and Indiana will consider the transaction in June and July.

Jack Godfrey, executive vice president, secretary and general counsel at Pinnacle, told the gaming commission the company had complied with an FTC request for more information.

“We believe we are nearing the end of that process,” Godfrey said. “We hope to have a conclusion in the near future.”

Godfrey said Missouri gaming regulators are “waiting to see what the FTC does,” before they consider approval. The Nevada Gaming Commission is the first regulatory body to approve the deal. The three-member Nevada Gaming Control Board initially approved the merger on May 1.

At the close of the deal, Pinnacle will operate more than 5,000 hotel rooms, 23,5000 slot machines, 640 table games, and employ almost 16,000 workers. The combined company will have generated revenue of $2.4 million and cash flow of $689 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30.

Pinnacle agreed to pay $26.50 for each share of Las Vegas-based Ameristar. Including $1.9 billion in debt and $116 million in cash on hand, Pinnacle said the total enterprise value of Ameristar is $2.8 billion.

Also on Thursday, the commission unanimously approved the merger of Lucky Silver Gaming LLC and Silver Nugget Holdings LLC. Lucky Silver Gaming will now own Silver Casino and RV Park, Opera House Casino, Lucky Lucy Casino and Hotel, all in North Las Vegas, and also Little Macau on Spring Mountain Road.

Fifth Street Gaming LLC will manage the four properties.

“These casinos would not survive without the merger,” said Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming. “They are (located) in some challenging areas.”

Australia-based Aristocrat Technologies Ltd. became the 22nd company to receive an interactive gaming license in Nevada. Aristocrat has a Las Vegas office and the company has previously been licensed by state regulators.

The commission also approved Las Vegas-based GambleID as an interactive gaming service provider. As the 23rd licensed company in the state, GambleID focuses on geo-location and patron identification services for licensed partners.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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