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Oddsmaker likes Harrrah’s in race for slots parlor

By Andrew Conte
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Harrah’s has the inside track to capture the license for a Pittsburgh slots casino, in the opinion of one oddsmaker.

Harrah’s Station Square Casino benefits from its brand name, player rewards program and proposed location — according to Brian McGill, a Philadelphia-based investment analyst who handicapped all companies vying for stand-alone slots parlors in Pennsylvania.

Harrah’s is the odds-on favorite at 3 to 5, McGill wrote in a research note to clients of his firm, Susquehanna Financial Group. The Penguins’ partner, Isle of Capri Casinos, comes in at 3 to 1, and Detroit businessman Don Barden, who wants to open a a Majestic Star Casino on the North Shore, is a long shot at 7 to 1.

“It’s only a three-horse race, so nobody can be that big of a long shot,” McGill said Monday. “Still, it’s Harrah’s to lose.”

McGill’s analysis looks only at companies vying for the state’s five stand-alone slots parlors, including one in Pittsburgh and two in Philadelphia. McGill plans to update the odds as state gambling regulators move closer to choosing.

Isle of Capri has a “punching chance” because it has agreed to pay for a new arena with slots money, according to the analysis, while opposition from the Steelers and Pirates makes Barden the “longest shot in Pittsburgh.”

McGill compiled the odds book for investors trying to decide where to put their money. Picking up a Pittsburgh casino would mean a lot less to a company as large as Harrah’s, he wrote, while it could “seriously change the outlook” for Isle of Capri. Harrah’s is a $14 billion company, while Isle of Capri is valued at less than $1 billion.

Harrah’s also benefits from the casino plan’s main backer, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, McGill said.

“Put those two together,” McGill said, “and it’s a pretty powerful combination.”

Andrew Conte can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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