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Howard Stutz

Inside gaming column: GTECH push to buy Atronic nearly over

28 January 2008

, Benjamin Spillman and Arnold M. Knightly

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Lottery giant Gtech Corp. is finally close to owning all of slot maker Atronic Gaming.

The complicated transaction was first announced in December 2004.

Providence, R.I.-based Gtech, which operates more than two dozen U.S. state lotteries, spent almost $150 million to buy 50 percent of Atronic, a slot machine manufacturer that is the market leader in Europe, Russia and Latin America.

Atronic has made significant inroads over the past year to gain entry into the American casino market.

The privately held, Espelkamp, Germany-based Gauselman Group controlled the other 50 percent of Atronic.

Gtech announced last week it would acquire 50 percent of Gauselman's ownership stake on Thursday for almost $29.3 million. Gtech said in a statement that it expects to buy the rest of Gauselman's ownership in Atronic for $46.8 million sometime this year.

Gtech was taken private in August 2006 when it was acquired by Italian lottery company Lottomatica for $35 a share, or $4.7 billion.

Las Vegas Dealers Local 721 is launching Web sites aimed at dealers at The Mirage and Mandalay Bay. The sites aim to let dealers better communicate with organizers. But union organizer Joseph Carbon said the sites don't mean the casinos are the union's next targets.

"We've had a lot of interest at both locations," Carbon said. "So the Web site is for them to view and we'll see what happens."

The union, a chapter of the Transport Workers Union of America, used a similar tactic during a successful drive to organize dealers at Caesars Palace.

The stock price of Boyd Gaming Corp. has plunged in the past seven months from its 52-week high of $54.22 on July 16. On Friday, the company's stock price closed at $25.29 on the New York Stock Exchange.

But that fall hasn't deterred Macquarie Research Equities gaming analyst Joel Simkins. His report to investors last week was titled, "We're still buying Boyd."

Simkins said Wall Street has substantially discounted the value of Boyd, the $4.8 billion Echelon development and the company's land holdings. He said the company's Coast Casinos properties, which cater to locals, should carry the company's load.

The World Series of Poker has launched a weekly talk radio show that will air Mondays. The show will include interviews with poker players and discussion of upcoming events.

In Las Vegas, the show can be heard on KSHP-AM (1400) from 5 to 7 p.m. The program is being picked up in such markets as Dallas, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis and Honolulu.