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LONDON-Las Vegas-based casino specialist Harrah’s Entertainment has made a euro 414.8-million ($533-million) for London Clubs International but stock market traders are expecting a higher rival bid and shares soared 32% in response. Harrahs, which has a market value of $11.2 billion, offered 125 pence per share – a 27% premium on Wednesday’s closing price. The bid has the support of LCI board.

UK casino attendance has increased since the Gambling Act of 2005 waived the 24-hour registration period before new visitors can enter a casino and allowed operators to increase the number of machines and offer higher stakes and prizes. Analysts had expected Stanley Leisure to make a counter offer but the club, which in late June discussed a potential nil-premium merger with London Clubs, put out a statement saying that talks between itself and London Clubs had terminated.

LCI has been seen in the city as a takeover target ever since Kuala Lumpur-based Genting Bhd, which invests in the leisure and hospitality sectors, took a stake in the operator last year. London Clubs now operates four London casinos, after selling off flagship gambling house Les Ambassadeurs for euro 170 million ($218 million) to Twinwood in February. The company runs seven other UK casinos and also has outlets in Egypt and South Africa. It has five under development and has a consulting stake in one in Lebanon.

Harrahs has 28 days to put out a formal offer document with dates for a first closing. A deal, if accepted by London Clubs’ shareholders, would close within three to four months.

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