Penn National Criticizes Vegas Chatter

Penn National Gaming reported a $40.66 million profit for the first quarter of 2009.

On a day where Penn National Gaming reported a $40.66 million profit for the first quarter of 2009, executives criticized recent reports the company was pursuing multiple casino properties in Las Vegas.

Penn National Gaming, which includes three racinos among its 19 properties, reported April 23 that its profits were only slightly less than the $40.74 million realized in the first quarter of 2008. Revenues fell 1.3% to $612.2 million, beating Wall Street analysts’ projections of $603.8 million.

Much discussion in a related conference call centered on recent published reports that PNG was lying in wait to acquire troubled casino properties in Las Vegas, including those owned by MGM Mirage and Harrah’s Entertainment, among others.

PNG chairman and chief executive officer Peter Carlino said the articles were not helpful to the company’s stated objective of perhaps acquiring one such property.

“In fact, we have never publicly said anything more than we wanted a single property on the Las Vegas strip if we can find one,” he said. “Time alone will tell if we can find the right opportunity at the right price.”

Speculation has been high on PNG’s future acquisition plans ever since the company received more than $1.4 billion last year in a settlement from Fortress Investment Group and Centerbridge Partners over a failed buy-out bid.

“If anything, that issue has brought…too much attention from a series of recent articles that link us with potential companies or properties,” Carlino said. “It's not helpful to the process.”

PNG operates 19 properties in 15 states. Included in the mix are three Thoroughbred racinos: Hollywood Casino at Penn National in Grantville, Pa.; Charles Town Races & Slots in Charles Town, W.Va.; and Black Gold Casino at Zia Park in Hobbs, N. M.

First-quarter revenues for Hollywood Casino at Penn National were $72.95 million, up 84.9% over 2008, when PNG launched its slots operation in mid-February. Charles Town posted revenues of $117.9 million, down 3.8%; while Zia Park had revenues of $22.3 million, up 2%.

Shares of PNG were up 7.5% to $29.78 in mid-day trading against a 0.6% decline for the Nasdaq Composite Index.