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Poker Champ Berman Stakes Claim In Ohio Casinos

JULIE CARR SMYTH

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) ¿ A casino developer and poker champion behind last year's failed bid to expand gambling in Ohio has staked a claim to all four casinos the state's voters approved Tuesday.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. chairman Lyle Berman cut the deal Oct. 29, just days before the election, according to a filing Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under its terms, Lakes agreed to fund 10 percent of the cost of the ballot initiative borne by both Penn Ventures and Rock Ohio Ventures, the development businesses of Penn National Gaming Inc. and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. In exchange, Lakes has the option, but not the obligation, to a 10 percent share in each casino's profits.

According to campaign finance reports, the campaign has cost at least $35 million.

Representatives of both development companies emphasized that Berman will only be a passive investor in the casinos.

The SEC filing said Lakes has already made an initial payment of $1.9 million to Penn Ventures, which is developing the Columbus and Toledo casinos, and $2.4 million to Rock Ohio, which is developing the Cleveland and Cincinnati casinos.

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