Nevada Gaming Control Board Approves Apollo Venetian Purchase

Posted on: February 6, 2022, 08:26h. 

Last updated on: February 7, 2022, 01:41h.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) unanimously signed off on Apollo Global Management’s (NYSE:APO) purchase of the Venetian, Palazzo and Venetian Expo. That indicates one of the largest Las Vegas Strip asset sales announced in 2021 is closer to wrapping up.

Apollo Venetian
Palazzo and Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. Apollo Global Management cleared a regulatory hurdle in acquiring those venues. (Image: LinkedIn)

In March 2021, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) announced the sale of the aforementioned integrated resort and convention center assets to Apollo and VICI Properties (NYSE:VICI) for $6.25 billion. Private equity behemoth Apollo is paying $2.25 billion for the operating rights to the venues, while VICI is shelling out $4 billion for the real estate.

The next step in the process is the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) evaluating the NGCB’s decision, which is scheduled to occur on Feb. 17. Once the NGC greenlights the acquisition, it will close.

The deal represents the departure of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), the largest gaming company by market capitalization, from the biggest US casino center.

Apollo Assuages Nevada Regulators

David Sambur, cohead of private equity for Apollo, and Venetian President and Chief Operating Officer George Markantonis, who’s taking over as chief executive officer of the new operating entity, presented for the private equity company at last week’s NGCB meeting.

Nevada regulators are considering the transaction as controversy swirls at the top of Apollo. In a rift that has Wall Street enthralled, cofounders Leon Black and Josh Harris are engaged in a power struggle. The former is accusing the latter of waging a “coup and smear campaign,” according to legal documents filed last month.

Black’s attorneys also claim Harris hired a public relations company to tie Black to the late, notorious Jeffrey Epstein. Black is no longer chairman of the private equity company.

Gaming experience isn’t a hurdle Apollo has to clear to appease Nevada regulators. The investment firm previously controlled Caesars Entertainment, and today it runs Great Canadian Gaming Corp., Italy’s Gamenet Group S.p.A, and is frequently tied to a slew of gaming industry mergers and acquisitions rumors.

What’s Next for Sands

With the proceeds from the sale of its Las Vegas assets, Sands is targeting enhancements to its venues in Macau and Singapore — currently its two remaining markets.

In Macau, where Sands runs five integrated resorts and is the market share leader, the operator could direct some proceeds from the sale of the Nevada venues to bolstering non-gaming amenities to gain favor among local regulators. The company recently said it’s planning $1 billion in upgrades to Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Some analysts argue Sands should use part of the proceeds to buyback its stock, which hasn’t come close to returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic highs. The company is also interested in developing new casino-resorts in Florida and Texas, and is rumored to be a contender for a New York City-area gaming permit.