Fresh From Merger Deal, Caesars Preps For Sports Betting In Indiana

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Caesars Entertainment, which announced a merger with Eldorado Resorts on Monday, said Tuesday it will upgrade all of its Indiana casinos and off-track betting facilities to ready them for legal sports betting in the fall, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The improvements range from adding space for sportsbook operations to upgrades that will appeal to a younger clientele in four Caesar-owned casinos and off-track betting facilities around the state. That investment will not be stymied by the bombshell announcement that Caesars was being purchased by Reno-based Eldorado Resorts for $17.3 billion, creating the largest casino gambling operator in the United States.

“Together, we will have an extremely powerful suite of iconic gaming and entertainment brands, as well as valuable strategic alliances with industry leaders in sports betting and online gaming,” said a presser. Moving forward, the combined company will use the iconic Caesars brand.

Sports betting in the Hoosier State

In Indiana, the state, too, is moving forward with implementation of legalized sports betting that officially becomes law on Sept. 1. Officials are skeptical sports wagering will launch that soon so don’t plan on being able to bet on the Colts vs. Chargers game on Sept. 8.

The Indiana Gaming Commission will begin taking licensing applications on July 1. The panel also is writing regulations regarding online and in-person registrations among other things in hopes of having the rules ready for approval by late August. Add to that list, OTBs and casinos soliciting sportsbook vendors for their venues.

“We’re just kind of getting prepared for when those [new sports gambling regulations]come in,” Kyle Waggoner, vice president of hospitality at Caesars, told the IBJ this week.

Those “preparations” include a fresh and modern face to the Winner’s Circle OTB facility in Indianapolis where a more open floor plan will accommodate additional bar seating with clean sight-lines for multiple TVs showing sporting events and live odds.

There also will be terminals exclusive to sports betting added alongside horse racing terminals already onsite. And, to get the attention of the younger bettors, cornhole and shuffleboard games will
be installed. Waggoner said the “typical” patron that bets the horses at the OTB is older than 50 and he is expecting sport betting to attract more 21-to-30 year olds.

“We feel that our clientele’s probably going to get a little bit younger,” he told the IBJ.

‘Transformational transaction’

Other Caesar properties in Indiana – Harrah’s Hoosier Park racino in Anderson, Indiana Grand casino in Shelbyville, Horseshoe Southern Indiana in southeastern Indiana, Horseshoe Hammond in northwestern Indiana, and OTBs in Clarksville and New Haven – will see similar amenities and freshening of its venues.

The updates are expected to be complete before the end of the year, occurring before Eldorado’s deal to purchase Caesars, which includes acquiring the company’s debt, closes in early 2020.

The merger brings together at least 60 properties in 16 states and comes just three months after billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who owns a significant chunk of Caesars stock, encouraged the gambling giant to be open to a purchase. According to USA Today, Caesars emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2017.

In applauding the deal, Icahn told the newspaper, “While I criticized the Caesars Board when I took a major position several months ago, I would now like to do something that I rarely do, which is to praise a board of directors for acting responsibly and decisively in negotiating and approving this transformational transaction.”

The purchase must be approved by the shareholders of both companies, plus trade and gaming officials. The annual meeting of Caesars shareholders has been pushed from this week to July 2.

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Kim MacCormack

Kim is veteran of the Florida newspaper wars who was forced into Plan B when her publication lost the battle of Tampa Bay. When life on Lake Como with George Clooney was thwarted by Amal, a former colleague offered an opportunity to write about the burgeoning sports betting market and a new career was born.

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