Tropicana Entertainment to Sell for $1.9B

Majority owned by Icahn Enterprises, Tropicana will sell its real estate assets to Gaming and Leisure Properties and merge its gaming and hotel operations with Eldorado Resorts in the all-cash deal.
Tropicana Casino and Resort Atlantic City, N.J.
Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City, N.J.

Tropicana Entertainment, a majority-owned subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, will soon come under new ownership. The casino and resorts owner and operator has inked a deal with Gaming and Leisure Properties and Eldorado Resorts to sell its real estate assets to the former and merge its gaming and hotel operations into the latter. The all-cash transaction is valued at nearly $1.9 billion. If all goes as planned, the Tropicana transaction will close in the second half of 2018.

What a difference a decade can make. Icahn acquired an approximately 47.5 percent interest in Tropicana in 2008, when the company was anything but successful. “Tropicana was bankrupt and desperately needed new leadership,” Carl Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises, said in a prepared statement. “At that time, we identified this undervalued asset as being a perfect situation to deploy our modus operandi, by which we seek to acquire undervalued assets, nurture, guide and improve their condition and operations, and to ultimately greatly enhance value for all shareholders.”

IEP later expanded its stake in Tropicana to 72.5 percent before increasing it to 83.9 percent in August 2017. GLPI, a gaming REIT, is set to purchase six Tropicana properties for $1.2 billion. The portfolio encompasses Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City—the recently expanded New Jersey gaming destination, Tropicana Evansville—the first land-based casino in Indiana, Lumiere Place in St. Louis, Tropicana Laughlin Hotel and Casino—located roughly 100 miles south of Las Vegas, Trop Casino Greenville in Mississippi, and The Belle of Baton Rouge in Louisiana. The group accounts for a total of 350,000 square feet of casino space and nearly 5,000 guestrooms. For its part, casino owner and operator Eldorado will shell out the remaining $640 million to acquire the operating assets of the six properties, as well as those of MontBleu Casino Resort & Spa in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., just across the Nevada border. Eldorado will lease the assets from GLPI under a 15-year master lease with the option for four five-year renewals.

Consolidation continues

GLPI and Eldorado’s definitive agreement with Tropicana dovetails with certain predictions for the gaming industry in 2018. “We believe M&A activity will remain a key component of both gaming operators’ and gaming REITs’ strategies in 2018, particularly as there are few new gaming license opportunities and modest anticipated organic revenue growth,” S&P Global Ratings notes in a report. “We also believe operators are looking to M&A as a way to increase diversity or strengthen their market position or competitive advantages in an existing market.” As for REITs, S&P suggests that the three remaining U.S. gaming REITs– VICI Properties Inc., MGM Growth Properties and Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc.–will be obliged to seek M&A deals to realize any meaningful growth.

Additionally, GLPI and Eldorado’s joint involvement with the Tropicana transaction fits with another S&P prediction. “We also believe that it’s likely we will see existing gaming operating companies continue to partner with the gaming REITs to diversify operations,” per the ratings firm’s report.

Image courtesy of Young Electric Sign Co.