EBCI will rent property from VICI
Caesars Entertainment has agreed to sell the operations of Caesars Southern Indiana to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) for $250m. As part of the deal, the EBCI will be able to keep the Caesars brand with the casino and continue to offer the Caesars Rewards loyalty program at the Elizabeth, Indiana venue.
Once the transaction closes – likely in the third quarter of 2021 – the EBCI will rent the property from VICI Properties for $32.5m per year. VICI, a real estate investment trust spun-off from Caesars Entertainment in 2017, owns the actual real estate of Caesars Southern Indiana; the EBCI is buying only the casino’s operations.
beginning of an exciting new future for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians”
“The purchase of Caesars Southern Indiana operating company marks the beginning of an exciting new future for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” said Richard Sneed, Principal Chief Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, in Thursday’s announcement. “We are pleased to build upon our long-standing partnership with Caesars as we look to advance our interests in commercial gaming in the coming years.”
All thanks to Eldorado merger
The sale of Caesars Southern Indiana was necessitated by Caesars’ $17.3bn merger with Eldorado Resorts in August 2020. The two companies needed the approval of gaming regulators in Nevada, Indiana, and New Jersey. The Indiana Gaming Commission gave the deal the green light on the condition that the two companies sell three of their Indiana casinos by the end of the year. Prior to any sales, Caesars and Eldorado owned five of the state’s 13 casinos, amounting to 50-60% of the state’s casino tax revenue.
The merged Caesars Entertainment sold the Tropicana Casino in Evansville to Bally’s Corporation for $480m. The sale of the Elizabeth operations to the EBCI had been in the works for a few months.
The last Indiana casino on Caesars’ chopping block is Horseshoe Hammond, on Lake Michigan near Chicago. Because of delays attributed to uncertainty about gambling expansion in Illinois and the state of the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, Caesars petitioned the Indiana Gaming Commission for an extension to the sale deadline. The commission granted the extension, now requiring the sale of the casino by December 31, 2021.
Cherokees expanding casino footprint
This will be the third casino under the ownership of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The tribe owns two casinos in North Carolina: Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians uses the proceeds from its casinos to better its community. Located in the far western part of North Carolina, the EBCI’s land trust is about 83 square miles and of its more than 16,000 enrolled members, about half live on tribal land. The EBCI puts at least $5m in casino profits into the Cherokee Preservation Fund each year to pay for non-gambling economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental protection. Additional profits go to improving tribal education, housing, healthcare, and more.