Casino Gambling

What will sale of Caesars mean for Biloxi and Harrah’s Gulf Coast?

Monday’s announcement that Eldorado Resorts will buy Caesars for $17.3 billion in cash and stock had people in Biloxi asking what the merger will mean for Harrah’s Gulf Coast.

The casino on U.S. 90 is one of two Caesars owns in Mississippi, along with Horseshoe Tunica Hotel and Casino. The company closed Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel in January.

The Associated Press reported that the acquisition puts about 60 casinos and resorts in 16 states under a single name and creates one of the biggest gambling and entertainment ventures in the United States.

The new company will operate under the iconic Casears brand under the direction of Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg and Eldorado Chairman Gary Carano. The new company will be headquartered in Reno, Nevada, where Eldorado is based, AP reported. But it will have a significant corporate presence in Las Vegas, where Caesars is based.

Reeg told analysts and investors Monday that the company expects to sell some properties, which may help it avoid federal anti-trust issues, and is evaluating whether to sell properties on the Las Vegas Strip.

“As I sit here today, I tell you, I think that there’s more Strip exposure than we would need to accomplish our goals with our regional database,” he said. “So, I would expect that we would be a seller of a Strip asset, but that decision has not been made.”

What Harrah’s brings to table

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the casino property south of U.S. 90 in 2005, Grand Casino Biloxi moved all the operations to the north side of the street. A Margaritaville Casino Caesars Entertainment was building in partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett went unfinished when the national recession hit and the infrastructure on the beach was demolished.

In 2014, the resort was remodeled and rebranded as Harrah’s Gulf Coast. In 2017, The Blind Tiger opened in a waterfront restaurant on the edge of The Great Lawn, where stars like Darius Rucker and Toby Keith have performed.

Harrah’s also owns a considerable amount of land in East Biloxi, most of it purchased after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed the casino’s properties south of U.S. 90.

Monday’s news came as General Manager Jonathan Jones and his Biloxi staff have been busy readying Harrah’s new multi-million dollar sportsbook in time for football season. Thanks to the extensive Caesars database, Harrah’s says it gets national and international guests at its Biloxi resort, which has a swimming pool overlooking the beach, a spa, salon, golf course and several restaurants.

The road to a sale

Tilman Fertitta — who owns Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi just down the street along with four other casinos, many restaurant brands and the Houston Rockets — also was interested in buying Caesars.

Billionaire investor Carl Ichan had purchased an enormous stake in Caesars Entertainment, according to AP, and pushed for the sale. He had sold 6 Tropicana Entertainment casinos to Eldorado last year for $1.85 billion. One of those is the Trop Casino Greenville in Mississippi.

Eldorado also had acquired Isle of Capri Resorts in 2017 for $1.7 billion. The Isle of Capri in Biloxi was the first casino to open in Mississippi in 1992.

Howard Stutz with CDC Gaming Reports said Monday that Reeg didn’t name any of the regional casinos that could be sold and he referred analysts to the map of the operations of the combined company’s operations.

Harrah’s Gulf Coast Biloxi isn’t among the places that are a concern, in part because Fertitta purchased the Isle in Biloxi before the company was sold to Eldorado.

Before the sale of Caesars can close, it has to be approved by the Mississippi Gaming Commission and other casino regulators across the country.

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Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.