The Indiana Gaming Commission unanimously approved Thursday the proposed acquisition of two state racinos by Caesars Entertainment Corp., but fined the Las Vegas gaming giant $1 million over its threats to nix a separate project in Indiana due to a dispute with local regulators.
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Caesars announced last fall that it would purchase the Hoosier Park racino in Anderson and the Indiana Grand racino near Shelbyville from Centaur Gaming for the total amount of $1.7 billion. Gaming regulators voted 5-0 in favor of the deal during their Thursday meeting. Once complete, the transaction will make Caesars the largest commercial gaming operator in the state with four properties.
The company already owns the Horseshoe Hammond and Horseshoe Southern Indiana riverboat casinos in the state.
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During the Thursday meeting, the Gaming Commission also announced that Caesars would be required to pay a $1-million fine for threatening to cancel the $90-million relocation of Horseshoe Southern Indiana onto nearby dry land.
Local media outlets reported earlier this year, citing emails between Caesars and the Indiana Gaming Commission, that the operator disputed a $50-million fee required to be paid by Centaur for the change of ownership of the above-mentioned two gaming properties. Under state gaming laws, the transfer fee is applicable to any such transaction, unless it involves entities that are under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The Indiana Gaming Commission has maintained that the fee applied to the Caesars/Centaur deal, while the two gaming companies have argued that it did not apply as it did not involve original owners of the two casino and racetrack properties.
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It became known earlier this week that Caesars and the Gaming Commission had agreed to pay the fee. According to local news outlets, gaming commissioners had requested that the amount of $50 million be paid by Centaur before or at transaction’s completion.
Back in April, state gaming regulators also approved Caesars’ $90-million plan for the relocation of Horseshoe Southern Indiana onto nearby dry land and the addition of other facilities surrounding the gaming floor. The company broke ground on the project earlier this month.
The groundbreaking ceremony came as the first indication that Caesars and Indiana regulators have made peace over the disputed transfer fee. Both the Las Vegas gaming giant and its Indiana-based counterpart did not dispute the fee during the Thursday hearing before the Gaming Commission.
Commenting on yesterday’s announcement, representatives for the gaming regulator said that Caesars’ good compliance record in the state has been taken into account, but commissioners had to impose the $1 million fine to show the public that compliance with regulations was not something they would compromise with, and that the state would always maintain its high standard for owners of local casinos and would protect the integrity of its gaming industry.