Harrah's Sale Could Impact Biloxi Casino Market

The largest gaming company in the world is reportedly being sold for more than $16 billion. Sources familiar with negotiations say Harrah's Entertainment has accepted a deal to sell its 40 casinos to two private equity groups. Apollo Management and Texas Pacific will reportedly pay 90 dollars per share to get into the gaming business.

Harrah's runs Grand Biloxi. So the buyout could impact the south Mississippi resort.  Casino industry insiders say the immediate impact of Harrah's pending sale won't be very dramatic. The deal will likely take several months to complete. So Grand Biloxi will continue to operate just like it has since it reopened in August.

However, the insiders wonder if Harrah's long term plans for Biloxi could be in jeopardy. After Katrina, Harrah's executives said they'd put a billion dollars into the Biloxi resort. They were part of a group that told lawmakers an on shore gaming rule would, according to regional executive Anthony Sanfilippo, "give us the ability to build a much better facility."  Once the on shore rule became law, Harrah's bought the neighboring Casino Magic Biloxi property.  And since then, sources say Harrah's has acquired an assortment of other land around its east Biloxi property.

On the August evening when Grand Biloxi reopened inside its land based hotel, Sanfilippo proudly exclaimed, "This is a terrific day."

A few weeks later, Harrah's put Biloxi expansion plans on hold. And casino executives around the region say there's no guarantee a new owner would honor Harrah's previous pledge.

One casino executive told WLOX News the coast gaming market probably won't grow too much until Grand Biloxi's future is figured out. Another casino insider said it's never good when a company as powerful as Harrah's gets out of a market.

Harrah's entered the market when it bought Grand Casino Biloxi and Grand Casino Gulfport.  After the hurricane, it sold its Grand Gulfport property to Rick Carter and Terry Green.  They renovated the resort, and renamed it Island View.

An official announcement about Harrah's potential buyout should be made Tuesday.