FTC OKs Harrah's-Caesars Merger

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday gave Harrah's Entertainment Inc. (search) permission for its $5.2 billion acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Inc., the companies said.

Harrah's and Caesars (search) said they were notified that the FTC had closed its investigation into the proposed deal, leaving Harrah's one step closer to regaining its title as the world's largest gambling company.

An FTC (search) spokesman said the agency had no comment Wednesday.

Nevada gambling regulators still must sign off on the deal before Harrah's takes control of its Las Vegas-based rival, the companies said in a joint statement.

Nevada officials are expected to decide Friday and Harrah's is set to complete the transaction on Monday. Gambling regulators in New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi and Indiana already have approved the deal.

The approval process has taken more than a year. In July, Harrah's agreed to buy Caesars for $1.8 billion in cash and to exchange about $3.4 billion in Harrah's stock for all shares of Caesars. Harrah's also will assume about $4.2 billion in Caesars debt.

Once the merger is completed, Harrah's will own and manage more than 40 properties, including riverboats and hotel-casinos in 12 states and three countries. The combined companies will have revenues of about $8.75 billion -- nearly $2 billion more than MGM Mirage Inc., currently the world's largest gambling concern.

The merger allows Harrah's to increase its exposure along the booming Las Vegas Strip by acquiring Bally's, Flamingo, Paris and the revamped Caesars Palace. The resorts give Harrah's customers enrolled in its highly successful Total Rewards program more access to one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

Harrah's operates the Rio and Harrah's in Las Vegas, compared with MGM Mirage's 11 Strip properties.

Once the merger is cemented, Harrah's will control nearly 17,600 rooms in Las Vegas after the new hotel tower at Caesars Palace opens this summer. MGM Mirage has about 37,500 rooms, all of them on the Strip.

MGM Mirage completed its merger with Mandalay Resort Group in April.

Harrah's shares fell 38 cents to close at $72.02 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, just below its 52-week high of $73.82.