Las Vegas-based Pinnacle acquires Ameristar

2013-08-14T08:52:00Z 2013-08-15T07:13:04Z Las Vegas-based Pinnacle acquires AmeristarJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Visitors and employees should not expect to see any immediate changes at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago, even though it now has its fifth owner in 16 years.

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment announced Wednesday it has completed its acquisition of Ameristar Casinos, including the East Chicago location. The Indiana Gaming Commission approved the sale in June.

Pinnacle bought Ameristar Casinos for $869 million in December 2012 and agreed to shoulder Ameristar's $1.9 million debt. The new ownership will not mean any big overnight changes at the East Chicago casino, said Matt Schuffert, vice president and general manager.

Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago currently employs about 1,100, and no effect is expected on employment levels. The casino, which opened in 1997 as Showboat Mardi Gras Casino, also will retain its name for at least the time being.

"We anticipate minor changes at the property," Schuffert said. "It will be business as usual."

The transaction adds eight properties to Pinnacle's cadre of casinos, which it will operate in nine states, according a Pinnacle news release.

"We've very excited to be merging these two great companies," Schuffert said. "It will result in multiple gaming choices for our guests both here and throughout the United States, as well as increased potential chances for career advancement for our employees."

Both companies are effectively doubling in size, so employees at the East Chicago casino should get more opportunities to move up, Schuffert said.

Pinnacle is borrowing $2.6 billion to buy Ameristar, refinance its debt, pay transaction costs, and provide working capital. The Las Vegas-based company now operates 16 casinos across the county.

"We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this transaction marking a beginning to a merger of two dynamic companies that will be even better together," said Anthony Sanfilippo, Pinnacle's chief executive officer.

"With this transaction, we have doubled the size of our company, the gaming and entertainment options for our guests, and career opportunities for our team members."

President and chief financial officer Carlos Ruisanchez said the deal would benefit Pinnacle by diversifying its business, lowering its risk and creating efficiencies of scale. The acquisition will bring in more cash flow, which the company will use to repay its debt.

The transaction is still subject to Federal Trade Commission approval.

Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago casino has previously been owned by Showboat, Harrah's Entertainment, and Colony's Resorts International Holdings. July revenue was down 6.4 percent to $17.8 million.

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