|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 10, 2005 - Officials from MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resort Group are seemingly playing out a scene from Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" in which two tramps anticipate the arrival of a mystery character who never appears.
The companies are starting to get the same feeling while waiting for approval of their $7.9 billion merger from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The casino operators are hoping to close the transaction by the end of March, and company executives are officially unconcerned that the OK from federal regulators has been slow to arrive.
During MGM Mirage's conference call last week with gaming analysts, company President Jim Murren expressed confidence the company's buyout of Mandalay was progressing under the accepted time frame.
MGM Mirage is trying to keep its 36,000 employees informed of new merger details through a newsletter called Momentum. The first newsletter, a four-page flier that was sent to all company workers last week, included a message from MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, a question-and-answer section on the buyout, and an explanation on how the process works
"It's just a way for us to keep our employees informed as the process moves along," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. "As news happens, we'll keep our employees informed."
Feldman said the newsletter could be used to communicate with Mandalay Resort Group employees once the buyout is completed.
Gaming analysts had been anticipating FTC approval as early as December and it appeared the OK might have been coming last month. Sources said recently that government logistics could be causing the holdup.
The FTC's Seattle bureau is handling the investigation and has to submit its report to the FTC's Washington, D.C., office for approval consideration.
Meanwhile, the companies are proceeding. Mississippi's gaming commission unanimously approved the merger in December as have Mandalay's shareholders. MGM Mirage is also trying to sell one of two Detroit casinos to satisfy Michigan requirements.
Nevada gaming regulators could take up the matter this month, Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said, if the FTC grants approval and if Nevada gaming investigators complete their investigation.
"Our investigation is still open," Neilander said. "If we can complete our work and the FTC has rendered its decision, then we could proceed accordingly."
Neilander said the Gaming Control Board could hear the matter in a special session the week of Feb. 21, with the Nevada Gaming Commission taking up the issue as part of its regularly scheduled session Feb. 24 in Carson City.
Otherwise, the matter would have to be heard during the regular meeting in March or in a special meeting that month.
The other major gaming deal, Harrah's Entertainment's $9.4 billion buyout of Caesars Entertainment, also awaits FTC approval. The companies announced recently they were in "substantial compliance" with the FTC's requests.
The Harrah's-Caesars transaction is expected to close by the end of June.
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