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Archive for March 19th, 2019

Hard Rock among Shortlisted Bidders for Cairns Casino License

The Government of Queensland has shortlisted three bidders for a development project that will transform the Cairns waterfront and the region’s tourism industry

Florida-based gaming and hospitality giant Hard Rock International, Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group, and a Reef Casino Joint Venture will be bidding for the right to develop a Global Tourism Hub, an integrated resort concept spearheaded by the Queensland Government that aims to boost the state’s tourism industry and draw more domestic and international visitors who spend more and stay longer in the state.

The Cairns Global Tourism Hub will be located in the Tropical North Queensland area and will link the city’s Cruise Ship Terminal, the Cairns Convention Centre and the Central Business District.

The Queensland Government announced in the fall of 2017 that it would award a gaming license to a developer interested to build a hotel and casino complex in the Tropical North area after Aquis Australia withdrew its A$8 billion project for an integrated resort with a casino at Yorkeys Knob.

Commenting on today’s unveiling of the three shortlisted candidates, Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones said that all three firms named

“are companies with strong international and domestic reputations for delivering high quality mixed-use, hotel and entertainment and gaming project.”

Ms. Jones went on to say that the three shortlisted companies

“recognise that with the reef, rainforests and world heritage areas on its doorstep, Cairns has huge potential as an international hub for tourists.”

The Three Candidates

US gaming and hospitality company Hard Rock International has pursued expansion in Queensland for several years now. Hard Rock operates hotel and casino resorts in its home state, Florida, and is also looking to expand its presence in Spain and Japan.

Hard Rock was reportedly exploring opportunities to set foot in the Gold Coast, but has now apparently shifted its attention to Cairns.

The Star Entertainment Group, one of Australia’s two largest casino operators, is currently building a A$3 billion integrated resort in Brisbane and is expanding its existing Gold Coast hotel and casino operation.

A Reef Casino Joint Venture has also been shortlisted to participate in the bidding process for the Cairns gaming license. The existing Reef Hotel Casino currently runs Cairns’ only licensed Las Vegas-style gambling venue.

Local news outlet the Cairns Post reported earlier today that two of the shortlisted companies are in talks to merge their bids. When approached for a comment on the matter, a spokesperson for The Star said that they do “not believe there is room for two casinos in Cairns,” but refused to dwell further on the matter for confidentiality reasons.

The shortlisted bidders now have up to July to lodge full proposals for the development of a Global Tourism Hub. They will have to pledge a minimum investment of A$1 billion into the development of the complex. The winning bidder is likely to be announced in late 2019 or early 2020.

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Intralot and Intracom Dismiss Merger Rumors

Greek gambling giant Intralot and local IT and telecom holding Intracom have denied reports about their potential merger, news outlet Kathimerini reported Friday

In separate but practically identical statements published late last week, the two companies said that merger rumors did not “correspond to reality.” According to those rumors, a mega-merger of Intralot and Intracom was under discussions. The transaction aimed to restore the gambling group’s foothold after it lost an important concession in neighboring Turkey.

It should also be noted that Intralot had a shaky start of the year with the drop of the nominal value of its bond and the recent downgrading of its credit rating.

Intralot and Intracom share the same founder and majority shareholder – Greek business mogul Sokratis Kokkalis. Mr. Kokkalis stepped in as the new CEO of the gambling company early this month, replacing Antonios Kerastaris. The now former Chief Executive of the Greek gaming, betting, and lottery group departed after Intralot lost its bid to continue providing sports betting technology to Turkey’s state-owned operator Iddaa.

Rumors about a potential tie-up between Intralot and Intracom emerged after the attempted reorganization of the telecom and the recent recovery of the two companies share prices, Kathimerini notes.

In practically identical filings with the Athens Exchange, the two companies said that they always report immediately any information that could affect their shares, as required by Greek law.

Intralot’s Losing Bid

Intralot lost its concession to supply betting technology to Turkey’s only authorized sports betting operator, the state-run Iddaa. A joint venture between gaming and betting technology giant Scientific Games and local business conglomerate Demirören Group won the concession instead.

The loss of the Turkish concession resulted in the departure of Intralot’s then CEO, Mr. Kerastaris. Further corporate restructuring could be expected as the Greek gambling company has lost one of its strategic assets.

Intralot, in partnership with Turkish telecom Turkcell, has powered Iddaa’s sports betting operations since 2004. The Greek company said last November that it would celebrate its 15th anniversary of Turkish operations with strategic expansion of its local unit Inteltek that would see the establishment of a new technology hub.

It is to be seen how big exactly would be the impact of the loss of the Turkish concession. Intralot has previously said that its Turkish joint venture with Turkcell generates nearly 40% of corporate revenues.

On a brighter note, the Greek gambling company hass pointed out that it would still have significant presence in Turkey through its Bilyoner online sports betting joint venture, in which it holds a 50.01% majority stake.

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Casino Giants Caesars and Eldorado in Early Merger Talks

Caesars and Eldorado are reportedly exploring a merger that could create a $9 billion casino and hospitality powerhouse

US gaming and hospitality operators Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Eldorado Resorts Inc. are holding early talks of a potential merger, Reuters reports citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

News about a possible tie-up between the two companies are being brought as Caesars’ largest stakeholder – New York billionaire investor Carl Icahn – is pressuring the Las Vegas hotel and casino behemoth to merge or sell itself.

According to sources who asked not to be named because of the confidential nature of the matter, Caesars is providing limited financial information to Eldorado, which has begun due diligence on a potential merger of the two operators.

Eldorado has not made a binding offer yet, it has become known. Sources also said that there is no certainty that the ongoing discussions would result in a transaction.

Eldorado Resorts owns and operates 26 properties across 12 US states. Most recently, the company acquired fellow gaming and hospitality operator Tropicana Entertainment namely from Mr. Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises in a $1.85 billion deal. Tropicana runs casino properties in New Jersey, Indiana, Nevada, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri.

Caesars currently owns more than 50 properties across 14 US states and five countries outside the United States. The company’s main operating unit emerged from a lengthy and complex bankruptcy in the fall of 2017, after failing to erase a $25 billion debt. As of December 2019, Caesars’ long-term debt stood at around $9 billion.

Previous Merger Talks

It is believed this is not the first time Caesars and Eldorado Resorts are exploring a merger. According to previous reports, the two companies discussed the opportunity last fall, but merger talks eventually fell through without an offer being made.

News also broke last fall that Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta was interested in combining Caesars with his own, smaller, gaming and hospitality empire, Golden Nugget. Caesars eventually rejected Mr. Fertitta’s takeover bid, but reports emerged last month that the businessman has not given up hope for a tie-up with the Las Vegas giant.

As mentioned above, Mr. Icahn has become Caesars’ largest stakeholder. The businessman has been raising his stake in the company over the past few months. According to a GuruFocus report, the activist investor’s holding in Caesars currently stands at around 20.88% after the most recent purchase of shares of the casino operator.

Mr. Icahn has secured board representation in Caesars’ Board of Directors after the company agreed to appoint three new members who were named by the businessman. The billionaire investor could name a fourth member if Caesars fails to appoint a new CEO within a 45-day period after the recently announced signing of an agreement with Mr. Icahn.

The businessman is pushing the company to merge or sell itself as he believes this is the “best path forward for the company” and the best opportunity to create shareholder value. Mr. Icahn also wants a say in the selection of a new Caesars CEO. The company’s current chief, Mark Frissora, is due to step down in April. Mr. Icahn has reportedly recommended Affinity Gaming CEO Anthony Rodio as the successor to the company’s outgoing top executive. Mr. Rodio was previously CEO of Tropicana.

According to sources, Caesars has a shortlist of candidates for the CEO position and has informed Mr. Icahn that it is willing to consider his recommendation, as well.

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Vitalijs Zavorotnijs Claims WPT Barcelona Title for €600,000

Latvia’s Vitalijs Zavorotnijs took down the WPT Barcelona last night to earn his career’s largest cash and join the elite WPT Champions Club

Vitalijs Zavorotnijs came through a field of 1,227 fellow contenders to claim the WPT Barcelona Main Event title and the first-place prize of €600,000. The player entered the elite WPT Champions Club by taking down the second-largest Main Event of this season of the popular poker series.

The WPT Main Event arrived in sunny Barcelona with a guaranteed prize pool of €3 million. The event drew a behemoth field of 1,227 entrants, ready to challenge their skills and luck in a bid to win the title and the lion’s share of the money. The massive interest in the prestigious tournament generated a €3,570,570 prize pool. Aside from the champion, the players occupying the top 151 positions ended up with a payout.

The final day of the WPT Barcelona took place yesterday at the host venue – Casino Barcelona. The casino is no stranger to big poker events as it has been a regular host to a number of prestigious poker festivals, such as the European Poker Tour.

Action on Sunday began with the six players who made it through to the official final table of the Main Event. Zavorotnijs co-led the pack of six at the beginning of the day. During four-handed play, the player won a 15-million pot that catapulted him way ahead of his remaining fellow final tablists. The Latvian poker pro never looked backed from that point on.

Heads-Up Action

The heads-up match of the WPT Barcelona was a hasty ordeal. It took Zavorotnijs just three hands to finish off his final opponent – Bulgaria’s Boris Kolev. On what turned out to be the final hand in play, Zavorotnijs raised to 425,000 pre-flop with king-nine suited and Kolev three-bet to 1.7 million with ace-queen offsuit. The eventual champion called to see the flop deliver queen-jack-flop that gave him a gutshot straight draw. Kolev hit a top pair.

A seven appeared on the turn that further improved Zavorotnijs’s odds to win. Kolev moved all in for 5.7 million when the turn card appeared on the board. Zavorotnijs asked for a count and took a while before flipping a calling chip. The player hit the much-needed flush on the river. Kolev received a €375,000 consolation prize for his deep run in the tournament.

As for Zavorotnijs, his win at Casino Barcelona came just under a month after his first poker victory of the year. The player took down the OlyBet Kings of Tallinn €1,100 Main Event for then best career cash of €85,300. Including last night’s win, the poker pro from Latvia now has more than $1 million in live tournament earnings.

The brand new WPT Main Tour champion said that he will now spend some time with his wife, who also took part in the WPT Barcelona Main Event, and their four-year-old daughter before heading to Vegas for the WPT Tournament of Champions, which he secured a seat into by winning the Main Event in Barcelona.

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