|OWNER OF REGENT-LAS VEGAS PARENT TO STEP AWAY
Friday, 9th March 2001
By JEFF SIMPSON
lasvegas.com GAMING WIRE
The owner of the Regent Las Vegas has agreed to sell
a majority stake in his Swiss Casinos Holding AG company and has written
off his $275 million investment in the bankrupt Summerlin property.
John Tipton, Swiss Casinos of America's president
and chief executive officer, said Friday that Swiss resident Hans Jecklin
agreed within the past month to sell 55 percent of the company to Swiss
businessman Hans Rihs.
Tipton said he did not know how much Rihs will pay
for the majority interest in the holding company.
Rihs serves on the board of Switzerland-based hearing
aid producer Phonak Holding AG's and is the firm's largest individual shareholder,
controlling 18.1 percent of the company's equity.
A spokeswoman at Phonak's Illinois offices said
the company is one of the five biggest
hearing aid producers in the world.
Tipton said the sale of the Swiss Casinos Holding
interest is contingent upon Nevada Gaming Control Board approval. The holding
company is licensed by state regulators as the Regent's parent company.
Tipton said that Jecklin has written off his $275
million investment in the Regent.
"From a dollar standpoint, Mr. Jecklin doesn't expect
to receive anything (when the Regent is eventually sold)," Tipton said.
Jecklin was unavailable for comment Friday.
Jecklin's family owns 100 percent of Swiss Casinos
Holdings, which owns 91 percent of Swiss Casinos of America.
The Jecklins will continue to own 45 percent of
Swiss Casinos Holdings if the deal is
consummated. The company is Switzerland's biggest casino operator.
In addition to owning the Regent, Swiss Casinos
of America manages a North Dakota tribal casino, Prairie Knights, about
45 miles south of Bismarck.
Swiss Casino Holdings owns a third subsidiary, which
operates smaller gambling halls in Great Britain and the Netherlands.
A source familiar with Swiss Casinos' U.S. operations
said that Jecklin's stock sale is
likely intended to raise money for the company to build American-style
casinos in Switzerland.
"Rihs has a lot of money, and Jecklin wants to raise
capital for his plans in Switzerland,"
said the source, who requested anonymity.
The Regent Las Vegas opened in July 1999 as The Resort
at Summerlin after a series of construction delays. Many of the property's
restaurants and rooms, along with its health spa, pool and convention center
were unfinished at the time.
Its business plan of targeting upscale spa and golf-resort
vacationers failed to attract
enough business, particularly to the casino. Its mix of gaming devices
didn't appeal to local
Las Vegas gamblers, who prefer video poker to The Resort's traditional
The Regent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
Nov. 21, and the case is working its way through the bankruptcy process.
Chapter 11 is the most common form of bankruptcy and frees
a company from the threat of creditors' lawsuits while it reorganizes its
The property is currently operating under a $20
million interim financing plan approved by its creditors and is being shopped
to potential buyers.
The interim financing was provided by a group primarily
composed of the hotel-casino's first mortgage note-holders, a group which
is owed about $90 million of the more than $300 million The Regent owes
The property's management changed the prices and
hours at the property's buffet, opened a 24-hour coffee shop and a poker
room, and has more aggressively targeted local residents with lower minimums
on table games and additional video poker machines.
Swiss Casinos AG hopes to expand its dominance in
its home market when Swiss law allows existing the country's smaller "Kursaal"
spa casinos to be replaced by American-style "grand casinos."
The country's 21 Kursaals are each allowed 200 slot
machines and a mini-roulette-style game called "boule."
The Kursaals generate Europe's second-highest gross
gaming revenue per-inhabitant per-year, just behind the casinos of Greece.
Swiss Casinos has applied for government issued
licenses for as many as eight new grand casinos that would offer a full
range of table games and slot machines. They would offer linked jackpots,
like International Game Technology's Megabucks slot game.
Swiss Casinos AG hopes to win several of the licenses
to operate grand casinos.
"We expect to generate more than 50 percent of total Swiss
gaming revenue once the new casinos open," Jecklin explained in June.
The Swiss government could issue casino licenses for the
projects by the end of the year.
Phone: (702) 383-0478
Fax: (702) 380-4590