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Boyd Buys Four Pinnacle Casinos; Penn National Completes $2.8-Billion Pinnacle Acquisition

Boyd completes purchase of four Pinnacle casinos to pave the way for the closure of Penn National’s $2.8-billion acquisition of Pinnacle

Major gaming company Boyd Gaming Corporation announced today that it has completed the purchase of four casino properties from rival Pinnacle Entertainment for the approximate amount of $563.5 million in cash. Boyd has now added Ameristar St. Charles and Ameristar Kansas City in Missouri, Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana, and Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Ohio to its portfolio of venues.

The deal has resulted in Boyd expanding its US presence across 10 states, with those being Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Including the four above-mentioned casinos, the company now operates 29 properties.

The deal’s completion comes less than a month after Boyd completed the purchase of Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Commenting on the closure of its latest acquisition deal, Boyd President and CEO Keith Smith said that it has expanded their portfolio significantly and has enhanced their free cash flow profile at a “compelling multiple.” The executive also pointed out that the addition of the four properties has gained them access to three of the largest gaming markets in the Midwest.

As part of the deal, Boyd has entered into a master lease agreement with casino REIT Gaming and Leisure Properties, which is the owner of the Ameristar St. Charles and Ameristar Kansas City and of Belterrra Casino Resort. In addition, Boyd has purchased both the real estate and the operation of Belterra Park to close the acquisition of all four properties.

Penn National Gaming Finalizes Purchase of Pinnacle Entertainment

The closure of Boyd’s acquisition of the four Pinnacle properties paved the way for the completion of another, bigger acquisition deal. Penn National has been able to finalize the purchase of Pinnacle in a deal valued at $2.8 billion.

News about Penn National finally acquiring its rival gaming and hospitality company arrive just over of week after the US Federal Trade Commission blessed the two operators’ marriage. However, Pinnacle was required to complete the sale of the four above-mentioned properties to Boyd in order to be able to join Penn National.

Commenting on the deal’s closure, Penn National CEO Timothy J. Wilmott said in a press release from earlier today that their acquisition of Pinnacle marked a “significant milestone” in the company’s “24-year history of growth.”

Penn National expects to realize cost synergies of around $100 million as a result from the deal and to generate further revenue synergies by “monetizing [their] database; cross marketing [their] properties; sports wagering; and further leveraging [their] social gaming platform.”

The two recently completed deals come as another manifestation of the now very persistent merger and acquisition trend across the US land-based casino sector. Urged by the growing competition, the recent legalization of casino gambling across several states, and other regulatory and non-regulatory challenges, some of the nation’s largest gambling and hospitality companies have made M&A moves to cement their position in the market or gain better position.

Caesars recently bought two Indiana-based properties from Centaur Holdings in a $1.7-billion deal, while Eldorado Resorts closed the acquisition of Tropicana Entertainment for $1.85 billion a few days ago.

The merger and acquisition deals are also anticipated to secure those involved in them with better position for entering the nascent US sports betting market following the May 14 SCOTUS ruling that annulled a long-standing ban on wagering on professional and amateur sports.

And all of the above-mentioned companies are looking to capitalize on sports betting and have moved to prepare themselves for an entry into the market. Penn National recently became one of the first two companies to be issued a sports betting license in Pennsylvania. The operator will run a sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County and an online operation.

Boyd has forged earlier this year a partnership with FanDuel to jointly operate sports betting services across the gaming and hospitality company’s now enlarged portfolio of properties. As for Eldorado, the company has joined forces with British bookmaker William Hill to leverage on the latter’s decades of international sports betting experience.

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Melco Bets Big on eSports in Pursuit of Japan Casino License

Melco believes existing relationship with Chinese customers and popularity of eSports could be a winning formula for Japan casino license

An eSports stadium will play an important role in Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s bid for a casino license in Japan, Geoffrey Davis, Chief Financial Officer of the major gaming and hospitality company, has recently told business news outlet the Nikkei Asian Review.

Melco made its first foray into the exploding eSports market earlier this year with the launch of its first eSports venue. Macau Estadium is located at the company’s Studio City property on Macau’s Cotai Strip. The 274-seat arena is the first one of its kind to open doors in the world’s largest gambling hub. It is planned to host major eSports tournaments and virtual gaming leagues and to livestream events taking place anywhere in the world.

With operational properties in Macau and the Philippines and one under construction in the Republic of Cyprus, Melco has now set sights on Japan, which legalized Las Vegas-style gambling late in 2016 and is currently in the process of building its casino industry.

Mr. Davis has told the Nikkei Asian Review in a recent interview that it “is very likely that the eSports stadium [will] become one of the key components for [their] integrated resort in Japan.” The official further pointed out that the eSports content to be offered by the time Japan’s integrated resorts open doors will be very diverse and advanced, and this will be expected to help Melco draw more customers to its property, in case it wins on of three licenses to be issued by the Japanese government.

A Booming Market

The global eSports market has grown at a tremendous pace over the past several years and is only poised to expand further in the coming years. According to Newzoo’s Global eSports Market Report, the eSports industry was worth $655 million in 2017 and is expected to record revenue of $906 million in 2018 and of more than $1.65 billion by 2021.

The report also suggests that China and North America combined will generate more than a half of the overall global eSports revenue this year.

According to Mr. Davis, Melco’s relationships with Chinese customers will be one of the company’s big strengths to “contribute to Japan’s inbound tourism.” It also seems that aside from Chinese customers, the operator is also planning to bet big on millennials as part of its Japan expansion effort.

Ayako Nakayama, Director of Operations at the Japan IR Association, has told the Nikkei Asian Review that more and more companies are now putting eSports facilities at their integrated resorts in a bid to “increase occupancy by bringing in international players worldwide for various tournaments.”

Melco will be targeting the so-called “premium mass” group of customers, that is big spenders that will be visiting its integrated resort not just for gambling purposes. Mr. Davis has pointed out that as under Japan’s casino rules the gaming floor at integrated resorts should not occupy more than 3% of the total area of the properties, other forms of entertainment will take central stage in their business model for the country.

Melco is one of around 15 major gambling and hospitality operators to be eyeing one of the three gaming licenses up for grabs in Japan. The winning bidders are expected to be announced late in 2019 and if this happens, the actual licenses could get issued in 2020. However, analysts believe that integrated resorts are not likely to open doors in the country before 2024.

Asked whether Melco has picked a location for its Japanese resort, Mr. Davis has said that they have been looking at big gateway cities where [they] can successfully deploy [their] capital.” Nikkei Asian Review point that Osaka and Yokohama are two location that match Melco’s description.

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Poker Celeb Maria Ho Wins WPTDeepStacks Johannesburg

Ho scoops WPTDeepStacks Johannesburg R13,500 Main Event title for R1 million in prize money and all the accolades she deserves for her great run

It was a mad run for popular poker pro and personality Maria Ho at Emperors Palace Hotel Casino in Johannesburg, but one which she concluded by emerging victorious in the WPTDeepStacks Johannesburg R13,500 Main Event; talk about girl power!

Ho outsmarted and outlasted a field of 387 entrants to collect the lion’s share of the prize pool and the tournament trophy. She claimed R1 million (approx. $68,885) in prize money for her latest poker triumph.

The WPTDeepStacks Johannesburg Main Event took place on October 12-14 at the host casino. As mentioned earlier, the tournament generated a 387-strong field and a prize pool of R4,649,800. The top 39 performers left with a payout from the event.

Ho had quite the run at the host venue and she never really lost her spot among the top chip stacks. The player entered the final day of action as the chip leader. She was headlining the 29 players to have made it thus far into the tournament.

Action developed quite quickly on the final day and it was not long before the 29 hopefuls from the start of Day 3 were reduced to the final table of nine. Ho was still the chip leader at that point. She had a pile of 2.438 million in chips before her at the table. The player took the best possible advantage of her chip lead and eventually made it to the heads-up match.

Two-Handed Duel

Ho ended up playing against Riyad Khan in the closing stage of the tournament. Khan was holding the chip lead at the beginning of heads-up, but Ho quickly took it after winning the first few hands dealt within the match. Khan regained his advantage shortly after and what followed next was 90 minutes of chips swinging back and forth and the chip lead exchanging hands a few more times.

Eventually, the two clashed in what turned out to be the most important hand of the match to see Ho win over 10 million in chips and leave Khan with just 1.4 million. Things only got worse for Khan from that point onwards.

The final hand of the tournament was dealt not long after. It saw Ho shove pre-flop and Khan call for his last 1.3 million. Ho tabled [Kd][5h] to her opponent’s [Jc][8s]. The board ran out [9d][Qh][7h][Qd][5c], securing Ho with two pair and the victory. Khan collected R712,000 for his runner-up finish.

Including her latest cash from a live tournament, Ho now has more than $2.9 million in overall earnings. The player collected her largest-ever live cash during the 2011 WSOP when she finished runner-up to Allen Bari in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em for a cash prize of $540,020.

It is also interesting to note that among other accomplishments, Ho is the only female poker pro to hold the Last Woman Standing title four times at both the WSOP Main Event and the WSOP Europe Main Event.

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Gambling Ad Spending in Australia Grows Nearly 26%

Television advertising spending records growth despite recently introduced restrictions; all advertising channels grow in the year to July, figures show

Gambling ad spending in Australia has jumped nearly 26% to A$140 million in the year to July, local news outlet AdNews reported earlier today citing figures it has been exclusively presented with by Standard Media Index.

The massive increase was recorded despite the recently implemented restrictions regarding when and how sports betting operators are allowed to run television and Internet ads of their products and services.

All major advertising channels have recorded a growth in gambling ad spending in the year to July, AdNews reports. Overall spending on gambling adverts has increased 25.7% over the reported period.

Newspapers as an advertising channel have seen the largest increase in ad spending, it has been found out. Spending on newspaper gambling ads has jumped 121% year-on-year. Other, unspecified, ad channels have grown 91.3% during the reviewed year. Cinema has increased 83.7%, outdoor ad spending has been up 60.3%, radio has seen a 43.2% growth in ad spending throughout the reported year.

Television ad spending has grown relatively modestly in the year to July, up 14.7%. The slower growth, compared to other advertising channels and to previous years, was due to the tougher advertising restrictions during live sports broadcasts rolled out by the Australian government and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) this past year.

Digital ad spending has grown 23.6% year-on-year and magazines have recorded a 5.7% increase during the period in review.

New Advertising Restrictions

As mentioned above, ACMA introduced in March stricter rules on how gambling services should be advertised during live sports broadcasts. Under the new rules, sports betting operators were prohibited from advertising their products during live sports broadcasts between 5 am and 8:30 pm every day.

The restrictions applied to free-to-air television, pay-TV, and radio. It was further clarified that the rules would apply five minutes before the start of a sporting event and extend to five minute after its end. The Australian government and the advertising watchdog have explained that the toughened restrictions were a necessary step and were prompted by growing concerns about children and young people being overexposed to gambling via ads.

The new rules took effect on March 30. The government then extended them to Internet broadcasts of sports events aired between 5 am and 8:30 pm. The extended rules took effect on September 28 and applied to eSports in addition to sports events. Simulcasts were excluded from the extended rules as they were labeled as ones the responsibility for which rested with the original broadcaster.

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Final Flight of WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Hammond Draws Over 1,000 Entrants

As many as 220 hopefuls from all five starting flights advance into the final day of action

Flight E, the final one scheduled to be played within the $400 buy-in opening event of the 2018 WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Hammond stop, was completed Saturday at the host casino. More than 1,000 entrants flocked to the venue to register into the tournament and swell its overall field to 2,563.

Day 1E of the event thus drew its largest flight. Registration is now closed and there is just one day left to be played on which a champion will be determined. With the closure of registration into the event, we can now tell how much was generated in prize money and what portion of the prize pool the winner will walk out with.

The tournament featured a guaranteed prize pool of $777,777. The massive field of Flight E helped for the guarantee to be easily surpassed. The total amount of $845,790 was generated from the event’s five flights. The top 220 finishers are set to receive a share of the money, min-cashes starting from $849.

As for the winner, their lion’s share of the prize pool will amount to $124,385. In addition, they will also receive a gold ring from the series. It is yet to be seen whether a new member will join the WSOP Circuit gold ring winners club or the player who claims the opening event title will be someone with previous circuit victories.

Day 1E Highlights

A total of 1,011 entries registered into the tournament through Flight E on Saturday. They generated a prize pool of $333,630 to add to the overall one. As many as 19 levels were played as part of Day 1E and once those were completed, there were just 89 players to have survived through the day. They bagged and tagged for the night and will return to the home casino later today to merge with the hopefuls from the previous two days for one final day of action.

A total of 220 players will return to the host venue to battle it down to a champion. Action is set to resume today at 11 am local time at Horseshoe Hammond which will kindly host the WSOP Circuit for the next week or so. The plan is for a winner to be determined by the end of the day, but it is yet to be seen how action will unfold.

Daniel Kitzis bagged the largest stack at the end of Day 1E with 687,000 in chips. The player will thus enter Day 2 competition second in chips, with Day 1A’s David Larson being the one to top the overall chip counts chart. Larson bagged more than 700,000 at the end of Flight A.

The $400 opening event is one of two on the WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Hammond schedule to feature multiple starting flights, the other one being the $1,700 Main Event. That second tournament is scheduled to kick off on October 19 with the first of two starting flights and $1 million in guaranteed prize money.

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