The Indiana Gaming Commission on Friday approved the $17.3 billion merger of Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment Corp. with specific conditions.
Eldorado officials agreed that the combined company, which would operate as Caesars Entertainment Inc., would divest three Indiana properties to address concerns about the company's market concentration. Eldorado shall have definite agreements for those divestitures on or before Dec. 31, Indianapolis Star reports.
Executives also made assurances to maintain employment levels for some time after the merger closes. Metrics will be worked out with the gaming commission.
The deal combines Horseshoe Hammond Casino in Hammond, Caesars Southern Indiana Casino in Elizabeth, Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson, Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville and Eldorado's existing property, Tropicana Evansville, under the same umbrella.
By the commission's projections, the merger as originally proposed would result in Caesars Entertainment Inc. controlling between 50% to 60% of gaming revenues in Indiana. By divesting at least two of those properties it would fall to at or below 40%.
"We are open to any employment conditions that you would impose upon the combined company. We do not see significant cuts in the Indiana assets. We didn't see that prior to COVID, as I said," Tom Reeg, Eldorado Resorts CEO, said during the virtual meeting. "Post-COVID a lot of it's going to be impacted by what operations we're allowed to bring back, but Indiana job cuts are not a material percentage of any savings that we see going forward."
Indiana casinos were allowed to reopen in June at capacity with approval from the gaming commission.
The combined company would have a market concentration of at least 40% or below with the divestiture of at least two properties, Reeg said. Those properties would likely be Caesars Southern Indiana Hotel & Casino in Elizabeth and Tropicana in Evansville if the Indiana Horse Racing Commission approves the deal Monday. Commission members pushed for the divestiture of a third property, leading Reeg to suggest Horseshoe Hammond as another property that could potentially be sold. Reeg asked for time to execute the divestitures.
A recently issued report by Deena Pitman, executive director of the Horse Racing Commission, declines to endorse Eldorado's acquisition of Harrah's Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand due to the company's limited experience in the horse racing industry and lack of investment in its horse tracks elsewhere.
Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts announced plans to acquire and merge with Caesars Entertainment Corp. in June 2019. The deal required approval from the federal government, stockholders and the gaming authorities in operating states. As originally proposed, the merger would create the largest casino operation in the U.S.— 60 properties in 16 states, including Indiana.
The Federal Trade Commission is requiring Eldorado-Caesars to divest casino assets in the South Lake Tahoe area of Nevada and the Bossier City-Shreveport area in Louisiana to settle charges that the merger likely would be anti-competitive in those markets.
Eldorado is selling its Isle of Capri casino in Kansas City, Missouri, independent of the proposed acquisition of Caesars. Eldorado views Indiana as a growth market.