The Deal: Approval Path for Ameristar Deal Indicates August Close

NEW YORK ( The Deal) -- Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. said it expects antitrust approval for its $2.8 billion merger with Ameristar Casinos Inc. ( ASCA) in early August and a deal close that month.

The timetable for reaching that goal now looks pretty clear.

Gaming regulators in the key states of Missouri and Louisiana on Tuesday placed the license reviews of the deal on their July agendas.

The Federal Trade Commission has been reviewing the merger, which is in a second request, and in May the agency filed a challenge against the casino operators, citing competition issues in the St. Louis metropolitan and Lake Charles, La., markets. Pinnacle last month agreed to divest the Ameristar casino development in Lake Charles and Pinnacle's Lumiere Place Casino, HoteLumiere and the Four Seasons Hotel in the metropolitan St. Louis market.

In marketing materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday regarding the placement of $3.4 billion of debt for the merger, Pinnacle said that detailed terms and conditions of the proposed divestiture remedies are being negotiated, and a consent order is expected to be finalized and approved by the FTC in early August.

The merger has all other approvals except the Missouri Gaming Commission and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. At the lender presentation Tuesday, Pinnacle said it expects both remaining regulators to approve the deal before the end of the month.

The merger is on the agenda for the Missouri Gaming Commission July 24 for presentations and public comment. The Missouri regulators could render a decision at that meeting but there is no requirement it do so. It has been thought Missouri would wait until the FTC process was closed before making a final verdict.

The applications for approval by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board are on the agenda for the meeting Thursday. Louisiana is expected to decide the issue at that meeting.

Commitments from lenders for the debt are due July 29.

The spread on the $26.50 cash deal Tuesday was 7 cents, or 0.2%.

Written by Scott Stuart