Harrahs announces sale of Laughlin casino - Saturday 3rd of December 2005

Harrahs Entertainment Inc. announced plans Tuesday to sell the Flamingo hotel-casino in Laughlin to American Real Estate Partners L.P., the owners of the Stratosphere hotel-casino in Las Vegas and the Sands hotel-casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

The $170 million cash deal also includes 7.7 acres of undeveloped land between the Sands and the Atlantic City boardwalk, the former site of the Traymore hotel.

American Real Estate is controlled by billionaire financier Carl C. Icahn, who holds nearly 90 percent of the companys outstanding shares.

Harrahs assumed ownership of the Flamingo and the Traymore site in its June acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Inc.

Harrahs spokesman David Strow said the properties were immediately identified as "non-strategic assets" and tagged for sale.

"We have a pretty aggressive growth plan both domestically and internationally," he said. "Our attentions are elsewhere."

Harrahs, the largest gambling company in the world, has said it is looking to expand to Europe. It announced Tuesday that it was considering building a Las Vegas-style casino in partnership with a local gambling operator in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, a city that borders Italy, and it has plans for a gambling resort in Ciudad Real, 120 miles south of Madrid, Spain.

Strow said the company had no plans to shed the Harrahs Laughlin hotel-casino, its only other property in the Colorado River town 97 miles south of Las Vegas.

"Were not pulling out of the market. Were simply selling this asset," he said.

The Flamingo, with 1,907 rooms and a 57,000-square-foot casino, is one of the largest hotels in Laughlin.

Richard Brown, American Real Estate Partners chief executive officer of gambling operations, called the sale an "exciting opportunity to expand our portfolio of gaming companies."

The New York-based publicly traded company has interests in gambling, real estate and oil and gas exploration. It reported $161 million in earnings in 2004.

The Flamingo will be its fourth Las Vegas-area casino. Its Arizona Charlies Decatur, Arizona Charlies Boulder and Stratosphere hotel-casino reported $20.9 million in income last year.

A spokesman said ACE Gaming LLC, the operator of the Sands in Atlantic City, would have the option to purchase the Traymore site at cost plus interest.

Harrahs said it expects the sale to be completed by the middle of next year after it is approved by Nevada gambling regulators.

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