Caesars Gets 1-Year Extension For Horseshoe Sale

The Indiana Gaming Commission unanimously voted to give Caesars Entertainment Inc. one more year, until December 31, 2021, to sell the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. IGC Executive Director Sara Tait noted selling the property now “presents unique challenges,” such as the impact of Covid-19 on the gaming industry and uncertainty about gaming expansion in Illinois. Tait said, “Granting relief regarding divestiture timing is in the best interest of the state and local community, and will not negatively impact operations at the property.”

Horseshoe is one of three of five Indiana casinos Caesars was instructed to sell by December 31, 2020 to comply with the IGC’s requirements for approving the Eldorado Resorts $17.3 billion acquisition of Caesars in July. Eldorado assumed control of the merged companies and kept the renowned Caesars brand as the new entity’s name.

Caesars plans to keep the two suburban Indianapolis racinos, Harrah’s Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand. Last month, it sold Tropicana Evansville to Bally’s, formerly Twin River Worldwide Holdings, and Gaming and Leisure Properties for $480 million. Earlier this month, the North Carolina-based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, operators of two Harrah’s casinos, signed a letter of intent giving it an exclusive 45-day window to negotiate the purchase of Caesars Southern Indiana. The tribal council gave Principal Chief Richard Sneed permission to incur the costs necessary to pursue the purchase–approximately $10.5 million. December 1 is the approximate date for signing the agreement.

Sneed said, “We’re trying to be strategic and get into these other markets, because we know these threats are coming, and so the decisions we make now or don’t make now will determine what the new normal is five years from now.”

The “threats” include the South Carolina-based Catawba Nation’s coming casino in Kings Mountain, which the Eastern Band has sued to stop construction. Another is the Hard Rock in Bristol, Virginia. Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida already allow commercial gaming, and Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina are considering it.

Sneed said, “Looking toward the future, our approach would be to obviously continue to own and operate our two casinos, to continue to develop and operate our convention business, but then also to create a regional portfolio with casinos in the commercial market, to where we have literally a presence all over the East, Southeast and even into the Midwest.”

As a result, he said, the tribe would be less impacted by competition from any one casino and players would be able to gamble at other Cherokee-owned casinos. “What we’re looking for is longevity. We’re looking for sustainability rather than depending on revenue to come over every year to cover our costs. That’s essentially living paycheck to paycheck,” Sneed said.

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