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WYOMISSING, PA-Shareholders of Penn National Gaming Inc. have approved the merger agreement that provides for the company’s acquisition by funds managed by affiliates of New York City-based Fortress Investment Group LLC and Centerbridge Partners LP. The all-cash agreement, valued at $8.9 billion, was struck this June.

Based on the tally of 81.6% shares voting during a special meeting on Dec. 12, 99.3% of those shares were voted in favor of the transaction. The locally based casino and racetrack owner/operator anticipates completion of the transaction late in the second quarter of 2008, but it is subject to regulatory approvals.

If the deal closes by June 15, shareholders will be entitled to $67 a share in cash, without interest. If the close comes later, the share price increases by $0.01 a day. There are nearly 87 million shares outstanding.

While the initial announcement of the offer sparked a rise in shares of PENN on the Nasdaq, it has consistently represented a premium over the company’s stock price. The 52-week trading range is between $37.88 a share and $63.68 a share. Following the Dec. 12 meeting, the stock was trading at $59.50 a share.

Under the terms of the agreement, Penn National will become a private company. The current management, headed by Peter Carlino, CEO, will remain in place. Penn National Gaming currently operates 19 facilities in 15 jurisdictions with an aggregate of 23,000 slot machines, more than 400 gaming tables, 1,731 hotel rooms and about 808,000 sf of gaming floor space.

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