Nevada regulators OK deal for Australia’s Crown Ltd. to buy Cannery Casino Resorts

Las Vegas (AP) — A bid by Melbourne, Australia-based Crown Ltd. to buy Cannery Casino Resorts for USD 1.8 billion in an all-cash transaction was endorsed Wednesday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

„We look forward to the opportunity to be part of the casino industry in Las Vegas and Nevada,“ James Packer, Crown’s chairman and majority shareholder, told regulators during a brief opening statement.

The Control Board’s recommendation now goes to its parent state Gaming Commission, which will consider the deal at a Jan. 22 meeting in Las Vegas.

Crown Chief Executive Officer Rowen Craigie said the company will focus on improving the performance of Cannery through Crown’s experience with various customer initiatives, innovative slot and poker products, and employee development programs.

Crown owns and operates properties in Australia, Britain, Canada and Macau. Cannery Casino Resorts will be held as a subsidiary of Crown Ltd., which is publicly traded on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Craigie said a new Las Vegas-based senior management team and board will be formed to oversee the Cannery’s operations. William Wortman and Bill Paulos, the two industry veterans who formed Cannery Casino Resorts in 1996, will remain as directors of the company.

Cannery Casino Resorts’s southern Nevada properties include the Cannery and Eastside Cannery. The company also operates the Rampart Casino at the JW Marriott at Summerlin. Crown entered into an agreement to buy the company in December 2007.

In other action Wednesday, the Control Board recommended licensing approval for the USD 700 million M Resort, scheduled to open March 1 in Henderson.

M chief executive Anthony Marnell III said he views the resort as a locals property, but it also will draw small tour and travel groups, particularly from Southern California, and tourists seeking a high-end resort experience without going to the Las Vegas Strip.

Marnell said the resort would have 351 standard rooms and 39 large suites, a 92,000-square-foot casino with more than 1,800 slot machines and 60 table games, and nine restaurants and several bars.

He also said a convenience store and gasoline station on the property will allow customers to swap loyalty card points for gasoline. An on-resort pharmacy also will distribute medical needs to employees and to customers, also with loyalty card points.

Construction of a 1-million-square-foot retail center to be attached to the M Resort has been postponed at least 24 months, Marnell said, but construction on a Galaxy Theater complex is scheduled to begin shortly after the resort opens.