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Warner Gaming LLC's Possible Takeover of Hard Rock Las Vegas Operations
on Agenda with Nevada Gaming Regulators

By Steve Green, Las Vegas SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 22, 2011--Warner Gaming LLC of Las Vegas would take over casino operations at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas under a plan to be considered by Nevada gaming regulators Thursday.

The Hard Rock, which earlier this month fended off an involuntary foreclosure attempt by a minority lender, is on the agenda for special meetings of the State Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission in Carson City on Thursday.

Records indicate Warner Gaming, headed by former Station Casinos Inc. executive William Warner, would become the casino operator under a proposed arrangement.

It wasn't immediately disclosed if Hard Rock lender Brookfield Asset Management Inc. of New York, which is also on Thursday's agenda, is working with Warner.

Messages for comment were left with Warner and current Hard Rock manager and minority investor Morgans Hotel Group of New York.

Andrew Willis, a spokesman for Brookfield, said the lender is bound by a confidentiality agreement concerning the ongoing Hard Rock negotiations and therefore had no immediate comment.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said Tuesday it's his understanding the proposal to install Warner Gaming as manager doesn't involve an immediate ownership change and that the senior and junior lenders to the property would retain their positions in the current debt structure.

Lipparelli said the hope of regulators has been that the Paradise Road property will remain open as its parent company works to resolve its financial issues.

"That's always the preference" for the benefit of the public and the Hard Rock employees, he said.

The Hard Rock, owned by Hard Rock Hotel Holdings LLC and controlled by international bank Credit Suisse Group AG, is currently in a standstill period with lenders that expires Monday. The lenders have agreed not to exercise remedies over defaulted loans -- like foreclosing on the property -- at least until then.

With 1,500 rooms and some 2,800 employees, the Hard Rock has been struggling to keep up with loan payments on its $1.4 billion in debt during the worst recession in memory.


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