Herbst Gets Helping Hand in Contemplating its Future

Las Vegas-based Herbst Gaming Inc., which reported a net loss of $34.1 million for the first nine months of 2007 after having recorded a net gain of $36.7 million for the same period in 2006, has tapped Goldman, Sachs & Co. to help in the exploration of financial and strategic alternatives.  Herbst took a big hit at its slot route operations in Las Vegas as a result of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which imposed a ban on smoking at indoor places of employment. The company, according to its third quarter 2007 earnings report, had been further hobbled by dwindling profits at its Terrible’s Lakeside Casino Resort in Osceola, Iowa. Additionally, Herbst’s profit revenue expectations for its Primm Properties portfolio were off the mark. The company completed the acquisition of the group of Primm, Nev.-located hotel casinos–consisting of Buffalo Bill’s, Primm Valley and Whiskey Pete’s, and accounting for a total of 2,642 hotel rooms and 137,000 square feet of gaming space–from MGM Mirage for a total of $400 million in April 2007. Now, adding to its troubles, Herbst is suffering the consequences of an economy that is losing its luster. With Goldman Sachs on board as financial advisor, Herbst is leaving the door open to a bevy of options for the future, such as recapitalization, refinancing, restructuring, reorganization, or the partial or total disposition of the company. Goldman Sachs has taken on the role of financial advisor to gaming companies seeking strategic alternatives on more than a few occasions. The global investment banking firm provided such services for Icahn Enterprises-controlled American Entertainment Properties Corp., which completed the sale of its American Casino & Entertainment Properties L.L.C. to Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds for $1.3 billion less than two weeks ago. A diversified gaming concern, Herbst is a casino owner and slot route operator active in Nevada, Missouri and Iowa. Its casino portfolio includes properties operating under the Terrible’s flag, as well as the Sands Regent in Reno, Nev., for which it paid $119 million in cash in early 2007.