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PHOENIX-The Las Vegas-based Ameristar Casinos Inc. has upped the ante to acquire gaming and entertainment company Aztar Corp. In its second offer in three weeks, Ameristar is offering investors $47 per common share for Aztar’s common stock, topping its previous bid of $42 per share and its competitor by $2 per share.

Also included in the Ameristar deal is a signed merger agreement and financing commitment letter. Though the bid is the most generous to date, it won’t be on the table forever: Aztar has until 2 p.m. MST Friday to accept or the offer automatically expires.

Ameristar’s bid, setting the bar at $479.02 per share for preferred stock, comes on the heels of an increased offer made by the other suitor in the bidding process, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. also from Las Vegas. In an announcement issued yesterday, Pinnacle offered $45 per share for all outstanding Aztar common stock.

Pinnacle and Ameristar primarily are interested in Aztar’s Tropicana Resort & Casino-Las Vegas, a 61,000-sf hotel and casino situated on 34 acres at 3801 Las Vegas Blvd South. Aztar’s portfolio, though, has four other key gaming properties, but none with the same name fame as the Tropicana.

Aztar is playing its decision close to the vest, but a source close to the deal acknowledges that the executive team is impressed with Ameristar’s offer. “This is the first time they’ve publicly supported an Ameristar offer over any other offer,” the source tells GlobeSt.com. “Aztar has determined that it’s a superior offer, but no deal has been signed or decided on yet.” Contacts for Pinnacle and Aztar won’t comment further about the revised offers.

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