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Comment The joys of how the Eldorado-Caesars merger was reported


Tim Poole breathes a sigh of relief as he compares covering the Eldorado/Caesars merger to his days of football transfer churnalism.

Back when I was a football journalist, transfer rumours were the name of the game. They still are, and that's one of the main reasons I no longer ride the peaks and troughs of hunting for clickbait glory – sometimes for 60 hours a week. But I digress.

In those heady days, starting at 6am on transfer deadline day and not pausing for rest until the transfer window slammed shut at 10pm, very few major deals actually materialised. There were the odd ones, of course; an Arsenal-supporting colleague of mine enjoyed one of the best shifts of his life the day the Gunners signed Mesut Özil.

I, myself, worked the day Luis Suárez left the English Premier League for Barcelona. On one hand, there sat a heartbroken Liverpool fan; on the other, a reporter on the hunt for as many bite-sized articles as physically possible.

These however, are rare examples. I remember writing about Jürgen Klopp joining Arsenal (the irony), Gareth Bale joining Manchester United (every single year) and Saido Berahino and Charlie Austin being linked with at least five teams each. Notably, none of these moves ever happened.

Those irrepressible tabloid rumours, only increasing in volume every year, are the exact opposite of how news broke when Eldorado Resorts acquired Caesars Entertainment for $17.3bn in June.

Football fans may argue Eden Hazard’s summer move to Real Madrid, glum news for the Chelsea-supporting member of our Gambling Insider editorial team, is the sporting equivalent. But even that transfer faced years of speculation before it inevitably crawled across the line. The Eldorado-Caesars merger, a sizeable piece of gaming history, was rather different.

As soon as activist investor Carl Icahn locked eyes with Eldorado, Caesars enjoyed a smooth, unavoidable journey towards large-scale M & A. Sure, there was a hint of sensationalist gossip when US media outlets claimed disagreements over price had erupted between the billionaire and the rest of the Caesars board.

It was even reminiscent of a football manager shrugging speculation away when CEO Tom Reeg dismissed those reports during his 70-minute post-merger conference call with investors.

But gaming M & A and football transfers, as I have discovered, are a completely different ball game. Other than Icahn’s sheer force of negotiating will, from his first share purchase to confirmation of the $12.75-per-share takeover, what fascinates me is the rich variety of takes on the deal.

Matt Kaufman, VP of Digital & Interactive Gaming at consultancy Eilers & Krejcik, told me he was "pessimistic" about the long-term health of the business. By contrast, Icahn lavished praise and Reeg emphasised every possible positive he could.

It’s obvious why those who forged the transaction would champion it. There has however, been a genuinely equal split of opinion, from the trading floor on Wall Street right down to the Gambling Insider office on Scrutton Street. Every eventuality from the new Caesars collapsing under its own weight to Eldorado vigorously shaking up Las Vegas has been explored.

The gambling journalist in me takes great satisfaction from the considered nature of each of these takes, no matter what side of the fence they sit on. It will be truly fascinating to watch a combination of Eldorado, Caesars, William Hill and The Stars Group tackle US sports betting. It will be equally intriguing to see how the new Caesars approaches international expansion when its first opportunity abroad presents itself.

At the same time, it will be enthralling to witness how Eldorado fares with an acquisition of this size, following smaller M & A ventures of days gone by.

Whatever way you see the deal going though, what delights this ex-football writer most is the ability to analyse and discuss such transactions in a reasonable, measured way. No one will call you a wind-up merchant for criticising Icahn, Reeg or Tony Rodio. No one will call you a half-literate analyst for citing facts and figures they disagree with in support of your argument.

No one, I hope, will refuse to answer your "stupid" questions if you ask about Eldorado or Caesars’ financials (as one Premier League manager so kindly did with me one Sunday afternoon in 2013).

Instead, insightful views replace fake news – and I’m delighted to have completed my own transfer from football media to B2B journalism. I miss very little from that old world, except perhaps Jim White’s yellow tie.

This article also appears in the September/October edition of Gambling Insider magazine. Click here to read our US CEO Special in full.