Indiana Gaming Officials Give Caesars Another Year to Find a Buyer for Horseshoe Hammond

Posted on: November 24, 2020, 08:59h. 

Last updated on: November 24, 2020, 09:47h.

Caesars Entertainment now has more time to sell its Horseshoe Hammond Casino in northwest Indiana. On Monday, the Indiana Gaming Commission extended the deadline to find a deal for the casino by a year, to Dec. 31, 2021.

Horseshoe Hammond
Horseshoe Hammond is the closest Indiana casino to Chicago, though maybe not as close as the image portrays. Still, it helps explain why it’s also Indiana’s top-producing casino. (Image: Caesars Entertainment)

Horseshoe is one of three Indiana casinos the Las Vegas-based gaming giant must sell to comply with the IGC’s stipulations for approving the Eldorado Resorts $17.3 billion acquisition of Caesars in July. Eldorado’s leadership assumed control of the merged companies and took the name of the renowned brand for the new entity.

Last month, Caesars announced the sale of Tropicana Evansville to Bally’s (then known as Twin River Worldwide Holdings) and Gaming and Leisure Properties for $480 million. Earlier this month, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians signed a letter of intent giving the North Carolina-based tribal nation an exclusive 45-day window to negotiate a purchase of Caesars Southern Indiana.

Caesars Pledges to Maintain Horseshoe

When the IGC approved the acquisition, then-Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg tried to get commissioners to approve selling just two of the five casinos. Keeping three, he said, would give Caesars about a 40 percent market share in the state. Commissioners feared that was too much, so they requested a third.

The two casinos Caesars intends to keep are Harrah’s Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand. The two racinos are the only gaming venues located less than an hour away from Indianapolis. In addition, state law allowed the two tracks to start offering table games this year. Reeg has noted the company plans to invest $60 million combined in both facilities to add more table games.

At the time, Reeg lobbied for having up to 18 months to sell three casinos. But again, commissioners pushed back, fearing Caesars would possibly neglect casinos it was trying to sell. The IGC gave Caesars until the end of the year, but promised to review the matter and consider an extension.

Caesars came back to the IGC Monday seeking the extension, claiming it was in everyone’s best interest. That led Commissioner Susan Williams to ask Reeg about Caesars’ commitment to maintaining Horseshoe while it sought a buyer.

The measure passed unanimously.

‘Mother of All Boats’ a Tough Sell in 2020

By most measures, Horseshoe is the biggest casino in the state. Located less than a mile away from Chicago and the Illinois state line, its 2,135 electronic games and 1,105 table game positions are the most of the state’s 12 casinos.

According to the IGC’s 2020 Annual Report, Horseshoe Hammond generated $309.3 million in revenue for the fiscal year. That’s nearly $85 million more than the Indiana Grand, the state’s second-largest casino. The casino generated $99.8 million in taxes, nearly double the Indiana Grand’s $51.1 million.

In addition, the $24.9 million in local development agreement funding was by far the most, outpacing the next three casinos – Hollywood Lawrenceburg ($8.7 million), Tropicana ($7.2 million), and Ameristar East Chicago ($7.2 million) – combined.

During the IGC meeting in July, Reeg said Caesars “built the mother of all boats” there.

However, he later said in the same meeting that it would be more difficult to sell Hammond for several reasons. One was the leasing arrangement on the property. Another was the rapid expansion of gaming happening on the Chicago side of the region. Reeg also noted the pandemic created some uncertainty in the market.

Because of those factors, he said it would require 18 months to find a buyer at a suitable price.