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Inside Gaming: Hard Rock Atlantic City Moves Forward, NY & WA Casinos to Open

Inside Gaming: Hard Rock Atlantic City Moves Forward, NY & WA Casinos to Open
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  • Regulators' approval of an agreement helps Hard Rock Atlantic City march toward Memorial Day opening.

  • St. Louis area casinos changing hands, while new casinos about to open in New York & Washington state

We're catching up on recent casino-related news in this last installment of Inside Gaming for 2017. Regulators' approval of an agreement in New Jersey means the Hard Rock Atlantic City continues to move toward a Memorial Day opening next year, ownership of casinos in the St. Louis area are changing hands with three different operators involved in the deals, and new casinos are set to open soon in New York and Washington state.

Commission Approves Hard Rock Atlantic City Management Agreement

On Tuesday the New Jersey Casino Control Commission approved a management deal between the operators of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and the owners of the former Trump Taj Mahal on which site the new casino is scheduled to open in late May 2018.

According to The Press of Atlantic City, the agreement dictates that HR Atlantic City (part of Hard Rock International) "will serve as the casino operator for the property," with such an agreement being "needed if the owner and operator at a property are different."

The property's owner is Boardwalk 1000 (which includes HRI). The agreement conforms to New Jersey criteria that the "casino manager own at least 10 percent of the property and that each party holds a casino license." Applications for casino licenses have been submitted by both HR Atlantic City and Boardwalk 1000.

It was in early March 2017 we first learned of the agreement by which Hard Rock International was to purchase the Trump Taj Mahal after the latter shuttered its doors in October 2016. Initial reports suggested a purchase price of $300 million, however filings in May showed the price tag to have been closer to $50 million.

The expense for the new owners didn't stop with the purchase price, of course, as the new owners are reportedly "spending about $500 million to renovate" the property.

The St. Louis Shuffle: Penn National to Acquire Pinnacle Entertaiment

Penn National Gaming is buying Pinnacle Entertainment, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If approved by regulators, the transaction will "be a cash and stock deal valued at about $2.8 billion."

In the St. Louis area, Penn National Gaming owns both the Hollywood Casino and Casino Argosy Alton, while Pinnacle currently operates the Ameristar Casino Resort and River City Casino. In order to ensure regulators will approve the deal, the Ameristar will be sold to Boyd Gaming Corp., ensuring no single company controls more than half the area's casino market.

The deal will require approval both by federal regulators and by the Missouri Gaming Commission.

"Based on reports of year-to-date adjusted gross receipts through November, the beefed-up Penn National would become the St. Louis market leader, taking over from Pinnacle," explains the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In a joint statement, Penn National and Pinnacle expressed optimism regarding the deal, noting how the "merged company could save $100 million a year by eliminating 'corporate overhead redundancies' and improving 'property level efficiencies.'"

Gaming analyst Daniel Holmes commented that the deal makes sense considering how the St. Louis market has "settled down after a burst of growth" in the 1990s.

"You're not going to see declining revenues, and at the same time you won't see rapid growth," observed Holmes.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming also announced an agreement to purchase the Valley Forge Casino Resort in Pennsylvania for just over $280 million, reports philly.com.

Resorts World Catskills Opening Moved Up Two Weeks to Mid-February

A little over a week ago Resorts World announced its intention to open its newest casino two weeks earlier than planned, moving the opening of the Resorts World Catskills casino and entertainment complex in Monticello, New York to mid-February 2018.

The hospitality and casino brand owned by the Genting Group made the announcement regarding the earlier opening date for the 1.6-million-square-foot complex on December 14, with Empire Resorts (the casino's parent company) immediately hosting a job fair in order to fill positions for "a project that will ultimately top 2,200 workers and $1.2 billion when future components are built," says the Times-Herald Record.

"We're opening early because we're not a regional casino, we're a destination resort-hotel-casino, and there's worldwide anticipation for our opening," said Charlie Degliomini, executive vice president at Empire Resorts.

More specifically, Degliomini noted that the date change reflected a desire to open in time for the Chinese New Year (February 16). "We didn't want to miss that opportunity for our business," he said.

Anticipating the needs of its customer base, the 100,000-square-foot casino "will feature a section with Mandarin-speaking staff and casino games popular in Asian countries." The complex will also include an 18-story hotel with 332 luxury suites, a 2,000-seat event center, and many bars and restaurants. Future expansion plans include additional restaurants, a water park, and a golf course, all due to be in place by the middle of 2019.

Airway Heights Casino to Open in Spokane January 8

Finally, we'll share news of one more casino grand opening coming up just after the start of the new year. The Spokane Tribe of Washington state this week announced its new $40 million Spokane Tribe Casino in Airway Heights will have its grand opening the night of Monday, January 8, reports The Spokesman-Review.

The 38,000-square-foot casino will feature 450 slot machines, 12 table games, a full service restaurant and bar, an express deli, and a gaming floor bar. "Future plans for the 145-acre site on U.S. Highway 2 include a hotel, [more] restaurants, entertainment venues, shopping and a tribal cultural center," says The Spokesman-Review.

The opening culminates more than a decade's worth of effort by the Spokane Tribe and comes after having finally received approval from the state to move forward with construction in the summer of 2016. The new casino will be located less than three miles from the Northern Quest Resort & Casino operated by the Kalispel Tribe.

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