Australia’s Crown denies Ameristar bid interest

Sydney (Reuters) – Australian gaming group Crown Ltd denied widespread speculation on Thursday that it wanted to buy U.S. casino group Ameristar Casinos Inc. Australian newspapers said earlier in the day that Crown, controlled by billionaire James Packer, could switch its sights to Ameristar after it pulled out of a USD 5 billion casino project in Las Vegas last month.

Ameristar, which has eight casinos around the United States, has been rumoured as a possible takeover target since founder and former chairman Craig Neilsen died in November 2006, the dailies said. His estate has a stake of about 55 percent.

„Crown has not undertaken or commissioned any evaluation of Ameristar and nor is it proposing to do so,“ Crown said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

The media speculation was sparked by a research report from investment bank UBS, which reportedly said Ameristar could be a good fit with Crown’s expanding international gaming business.

Crown owns 19.6 percent of privately held Fontainebleau Resorts LLC, which is building a new USD 2.9 billion casino resort in Las Vegas and completing a renovation of its landmark Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel.

Crown also owns two casinos in Australia and last December bought Cannery Casino Resorts for USD 1.75 billion, giving it three casinos in Las Vegas and a racetrack in Pittsburgh. In addition, it has a casino joint venture in Macau and nine Canadian casinos.