Gaming commission approves ownership changes at four Indiana casinos

Four Indiana casinos have new owners after the Indiana Gaming Commission approved several deals Thursday afternoon.

As IBJ reported earlier Thursday, the commission unanimously approved Caesars Entertainment Corp.'s $1.7 billion purchase of Indianapolis-based Centaur Gaming LLC and its two horse racing casinos—Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Grand in Shelbyville.

The other ownership deals the gaming commission unanimously approved Thursday involved Belterra Casino Resort in Switzerland County and Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, which are part of a larger, three-company arrangement.

Penn National Gaming Inc. is buying Pinnacle Entertainment—which owns Belterra and Ameristar—in a deal worth about $2.8 billion.

Penn already owns Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, which means it needed to divest at least one casino property to comply with state law. So, as part of the Pinnacle and Penn deal, Boyd Gaming Corp. is buying Belterra and three other Penn National properties.

State law prohibits one company from owning more than two casinos in Indiana, but that does not apply to racetrack-based casinos like Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand.

Caesars already owns two casinos in Indiana—Horseshoe Southern Indiana Hotel and Casino, along the Ohio River in Harrison County, and Horseshoe Hammond Casino on Lake Michigan in northwest Indiana.

The approval came less than an hour after the commission fined Caesars $1 million for improperly threatening to call off an unrelated project in southern Indiana if the $50 million fee attached to the Centaur deal wasn’t waived.

The commission did not waive the fee, but attorneys for Centaur and Caesars had already indicated a willingness to pay it.

Caesars plans to spend nearly $50 million to make technology upgrades and other improvements at the two casinos this year. The company is also exploring the idea of rebranding Hoosier Park to Harrah’s Hoosier Park, to mirror the brand at Caesars’ other horse racing casinos—Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack.

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission, which also had to approve the deal, signed off on it on Wednesday.

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