LAS VEGAS-Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. said late Wednesday it has received approval from the Missouri Gaming Commission regarding its proposed $27.8-billion buy-out by affiliates of the private equity firms Apollo Management LP and TPG Capital, formerly Texas Pacific Group. The transaction, announced in December 2006, is scheduled to close late this year or early next year, according to SEC documents.

The transaction requires approval from gambling regulators in more than a dozen states and several tribal nations where Harrah’s operates. In addition to Missouri, in recent days and weeks Harrah’s has received approval from the gaming regulatory agencies for Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and Mississippi. The European Union signed off on the deal in April, the same month Harrah’s shareholders controlling 66% of outstanding stock approved the transaction.

Harrah’s is the world’s largest casino company by revenue. It operates 39 casinos across the US, including Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Flamingo and Paris on the Las Vegas Strip. International, it owns stakes in casinos in Canada and Uruguay and owns UK-based London Clubs International PLC, which operates 10 casinos in UK, Egypt and South Africa.

Per the merger agreement signed Dec. 19, 2006, TPG and Apollo affiliates have agreed to acquire Harrah’s in an all-cash transaction valued on that date at approximately $27.8 billion. The figure includes $90 in cash for each outstanding share of Harrah’s common stock and the assumption of $10.7 billion of debt. The result of the deal will be a near doubling of Harrah’s debt load, which will require it to focus on paying down that debt rather than reinvesting in growth, according to related documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, Harrah’s said in a February regulatory filing that plans to split its real estate holdings from its operations by the time the acquisition is completed. For that story, click here.

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