Churchill Downs Preparing for Legalized Sports Betting, Closes at 52-Week High

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Churchill Downs, Inc. (CHDN) has announced it will be acquiring casinos in Pennsylvania and Mississippi, as it prepares to capitalize on legalized sports betting. The company will buy the Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, PA (for $178.9 million) and the Lady Luck Casino (for $50.6 million) in Vicksburg, MS, from current owner, Eldorado Resorts (ERI). Both PA & MS have passed sports betting legislation that would change their laws, should the SCOTUS strike down PAPSA. CHDN also owns brick and mortar casinos in Illinois, Kentucky and Louisiana, 3 other states actively working towards sports betting legalization.

Howie Long-Short: Churchill Downs released Q4 ’17 financials on February 28th. Q4 ’17 adjusted EBITDA was +23% YOY (to $37.6 million) on net revenue that rose 11% YOY (to $179.8 million). Changes to the recent U.S. tax code added $57.7 million to Q4 net income. CHDN shares are up 4.5% since the company issued their Q4 earnings report, closing at a 52-week high on Tuesday ($268.20).

Fan Marino: While Presque Isle Downs & Casino is among the lowest revenue generating casinos in Pennsylvania, it’s a significant acquisition for CHDN; PA recently legalized online gambling and the law passed covers mobile wagering on sporting events (assuming permitted by federal law). While land based casinos are profitable, it’s mobile sports betting that really has CHDN excited. TwinSpires, the company’s online horse betting platform, accounted for $256.7 million in ’17 revenue (+15% YOY). One can safely assume the company will look to turn their database of users betting on the ponies, into mainstream sports gamblers.

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Casino Consolidation Continues, Penn National Gaming and Boyd Gaming Scale Up

U.S. casino operator Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PENN) has agreed to acquire Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. (PNK) for $2.8 billion, with the deal expected to close by the end of 2018. PENN will own 78% of the combined entity (41 properties, 53,500 slots, 1,300 tables and 8,300 hotel rooms), with PNK owning the balance. PENN and PNK were ostensibly already partners; in 2013, PENN spun off Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI), a REIT that owns much of the land PNK operates its casinos on. As an adjunct to the PENN/PNK deal, Boyd Gaming (BYD) agreed to buy 4 PNK properties, from PENN, for $575 million. In a separate transaction, Boyd Gaming announced it has acquired Valley Forge Casino Resort for $280.5 million; the company’s first asset in PA; the 2nd largest commercial gaming state in the nation.

Howie Long-ShortPNK shareholders will receive cash and PENN stock worth $32.47/share; or 48.5% premium to PNK shares at the close on October 4, the day prior to the first reports of merger talks. PENN shares hit a 52-week high on Wednesday, closing at $30.90. It’s been a busy year for local casino operator mergers. Earlier this year, Eldorado Resorts (ERI) bought Isles of Capri Casinos Inc. for $1.7 billion and GLPI bought the Bally’s Casino Tunica and Resorts Casino Tunica (properties in Mississippi) for $82.6 million.

Fan Marino: High rollers, like the guy who bet (and won) $880K on Mayweather to beat McGregor, will be pleased to learn that the revised tax code “largely preserves the ability for our customers who itemize to net their gambling income” – The American Gambling Association. Here’s a fun gambling story, some guy won $37,600 on a $47 10-team NFL parlay last Sunday.

Penn National Gaming strikes $2.8B deal to buy competitor

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