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Eldorado, Caesars deal finalized, creating country's largest casino company

The $17.3 billion merger of Eldorado Resorts Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corp. was finalized Monday, the newly formed company announced.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. is now the largest casino operator in the United States and controls four of Atlantic City’s nine casino properties. The new Caesars will oversee 55 casinos worldwide and in 16 U.S. states.

New Jersey regulators approved the deal Friday, the final regulatory hurdle needed for Reno-based Eldorado’s acquisition of the Las Vegas gaming giant.

“We are pleased to have completed this transformative merger, thus making us the premier leader in gaming and hospitality. We look forward to executing on the numerous opportunities ahead to create value for all stakeholders,” Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Inc., said in a statement Monday. “Additionally, we are pleased to welcome all of our team members to the combined company, and we look forward to implementing all of the strategic initiatives that will position the company for continued growth.”

The new company will operate Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Tropicana Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City until a sale agreement with Twin River Worldwide Holdings is finalized.

Prior to the merger, Bally’s was sold to the Rhode Island-based company for $25 million, and the sale is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Last week, regulators with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement expressed reservations about the scope of the merger and the unknown impacts of the novel coronavirus on gaming, hospitality and leisure.

At the recommendation of the DGE, the Casino Control Commission imposed 39 conditions on the deal’s approval, including significant capital investment at the Atlantic City casinos in the next three years and a prohibition against closing any of the properties for at least five years.

New Caesars agreed to the creation of a $400 million capital expenditures trust account, with the caveat that if the Bally’s sale is not complete by year’s end another $125 million will be added.

A minimum of $150 million must be spent on Caesars Atlantic City over the next 36 months, including $75 million in year one and $125 million by the end of the second year.

“We understand that we acquire the positives and negatives of Caesars,” Reeg told New Jersey gaming regulators last week. “And we know that Atlantic City and New Jersey have had some difficulties with a lack of investment from Caesars, chiefly in the past, and we understand why the conditions are there. We are absolutely committed to agreeing to the requirement.”

On Monday, Caesars Entertainment Inc. Chief Financial Officer Bret Yunker said a multiyear plan to improve and enhance the guest experience at the Atlantic City properties was being developed.

Yunker said room renovations for both the Ocean and Centurion Towers at Caesars was a priority, as was revamping the property’s food and beverage options.

The “sense of arrival” at Caesars — at both the porte cochere and Boardwalk entrances — is another focus area for the new company, Yunker said, echoing what regulators noted last week in that investment in Caesars’ Atlantic City properties is overdue.

“It’s obviously going to play out over a number of years because of this very unique scenario we’re in with COVID-19,” he said. “But we’re going to try to do this as quickly as we possibly can but also as safely as we can.”

The global pandemic creates marketing and promotional challenges as well since travel restrictions are in place and casinos are presently operating under reduced capacity limits.

But Yunker said the immediate plan of improving the properties in Caesars’ portfolio is part of a long-term strategy to increase the number of people visiting Atlantic City.

“We’re going to really lean on both the Caesars database and the Eldorado database, and get the best customers we can to come to Atlantic City,” Yunker said.

Locally, much of the senior management from Eldorado (Tropicana) and old Caesars will remain in Atlantic City.

Steve Callender, senior vice president of Eastern regional operations and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey; Jason Gregoric, general manager of Tropicana; Ron Baumann, regional president for the old Caesars’ three Atlantic City casinos; and Karie Hall, general manager of Bally’s, will all remain with the newly formed company.

Also, former Caesars CEO Tony Rodio, a longtime Atlantic City casino executive, will serve as a strategic advisor to Reeg. Rodio will develop and implement a capital expenditure program for the new company.

GALLERY: Caesars Atlantic City reopens along with Harrah's and Bally's after COVID-19 shutdown

'Anti-feminist' lawyer eyed in shooting of N.J. judge's family

A self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer found dead in the Catskills of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound is considered the prime suspect in the shooting of a federal judge’s family in New Jersey, the FBI said Monday.

Roy Den Hollander, who received media attention including appearances on Fox News and Comedy Central for lawsuits challenging perceived infringements of “men’s rights,” was found dead Monday in Sullivan County, New York, two officials with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press.

The FBI said Den Hollander was the “primary subject in the attack” and confirmed he had been pronounced dead but provided no other details.

A day earlier, a gunman posing as a FedEx delivery person went to the North Brunswick, New Jersey, home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and started shooting, wounding her husband, the defense lawyer Mark Anderl, and killing her son, Daniel Anderl.

Salas was at home but in another part of the house and was unharmed, said the officials, who could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Den Hollander had a gender-equity lawsuit, filed in 2015, that was being heard by Salas involving a young woman who wanted to register for the military draft. He also mentioned the judge in writings posted online, deriding her as a ladder climber who traded on her Hispanic heritage to get ahead.

A package addressed to Salas was found along with Den Hollander’s body, the officials said.

In a screed Den Hollander posted online, he also wrote of posing as a FedEx delivery person to speak with a young girl, the same tactic the gunman apparently used at the door to the judge’s family home.

Den Hollander was best known in years past for unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of “ladies night” promotions at bars and nightclubs. His litigation, and willingness to appear on television, earned him spots on “The Colbert Report” and MSNBC.

Daniel Anderl, Salas’ son, was set to be heading back shortly to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he was named to the Dean’s List this spring.

“I was shocked last night to hear news of Daniel Anderl’s tragic death Sunday evening in New Jersey. Daniel was a rising junior, enrolled for classes beginning in the next few weeks,” university President John Garvey wrote on Twitter. “He turned 20 last week.”

Salas, seated in Newark, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2011. Prior to that, she served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in New Jersey, after working as an assistant public defender for several years.

In more than 2,000 pages of often misogynistic, racist writings, Den Hollander criticized Salas’ life story of being abandoned by her father and raised by her poor mother as “the usual effort to blame a man and turn someone into super girl.”

In another section — part of a collection posted online that resembled an early draft of a memoir — he wrote: “When a lunatic shows up with a gun, what do you want for a defense—PC ideology or a six-shooter?”

Hollander’s writings also point to a possible connection to the area where he was found dead. He described going to a family cabin in the Catskills community of Beaverkill, about 40 minutes by car from Liberty.

Salas, born in California to a Cuban immigrant mother and Mexican father, spent most of her childhood in Union City, New Jersey. After helping her family escape a devastating house fire, she acted as her mother’s translator and advocate, foreshadowing her career in law as she argued her family’s case to welfare officials, according to a 2018 magazine profile.

In the profile, Salas spoke of her son possibly following his parents into the legal profession.

“He’s been arguing with us since he could talk — practicing his advocacy skills,” Salas told New Jersey Monthly. “I don’t want to dissuade him, but I was pulling for a doctor.”

Several college friends had spent the weekend visiting Daniel for his birthday, leaving just hours before the shooting, neighbor Marion Costanza said.

“These are people that will never see their friend again. Then to think of Esther losing her only child. It’s just devastating,” said Constanza, a lawyer who watched Daniel grow up, and had dinner plans this coming week with his parents.

“I want the world to know what a beautiful kid this was,” she said. “It’s just devastating.”

She said that Salas a few years ago “was a little nervous because she was getting high-profile cases,” but had not mentioned any recent concerns. She last saw Mark Anderl walking the family’s two large dogs Saturday.

Just last week, Salas was appointed to hear an ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and failed to monitor “high-risk” customers including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Her highest-profile case in recent years was the financial fraud case involving husband-and-wife “Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice, whom Salas sentenced to prison for crimes including bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. Salas staggered their sentences so that one of them could be available to take care of their four children.

In 2017, she barred federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against an alleged gang leader charged in several Newark slayings, ruling the man’s intellectual disability made him ineligible for capital punishment. Salas later sentenced the man to 45 years in prison.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Monday that the FBI and the U.S. Marshals will continue investigating the shooting, adding: “This kind of lawless, evil action carried out against a member of the federal judiciary will not be tolerated.”


Associated Press reporter David Porter contributed to this report. Sisak reported from New York and Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C.

Parents allowed to opt out of in-person education in fall, 'high-risk' sports to resume

TRENTON — Parents and caregivers will be allowed to opt out of in-person education and choose all remote learning for their children in the fall, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during his 97th coronavirus briefing Monday.

“Later this week ... the Department of Education will be releasing guidance allowing for parents to choose all remote learning for their children,” Murphy said, adding that he will put off answering questions until the guidance is released. “This is about as complex a step we will take or American state will take, and we want to do it right.”

Murphy said there are a lot of “moving parts” when it comes to reopening schools in the fall, and he would like to “recapture some semblance of in-person education that no state does like New Jersey.”

In addition, Murphy said he would sign an executive order Monday allowing for contact drills, practices and competitions to resume for what he called “high-risk” sports, including football, cheerleading, boxing and mixed martial arts, as he announced last month.

Murphy said all events must be held outdoors, and that all sports will have to abide by a number of health and safety protocols.

Murphy later clarified his order saying that any sports under the oversight of either the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association or the NCAA must still abide by those associations’ rules and regulations.

The NJSIAA, which governs most high school sports in New Jersey, released guidelines this month that include four phases to guide the activities of teams in the summer.

Some schools have started Phase 1, which lasts two weeks and consists primarily of 90-minute, noncontact workouts.

Phase 2 begins no sooner than July 27, and consists of two-hour workouts and weight room activity. Schools must complete Phase 1 before they can begin Phase 2.

Meanwhile, New Jersey saw another 177 positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 176,963, according to the state Department of Health.

Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state is having an issue receiving Quest Laboratories results electronically, which may skew the numbers.

“That may be causing our case numbers to be lower,” Persichilli said.

The state also reported a 2.8% positivity rate and the rate of transmission at 0.90.

Murphy reported nine new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total number of New Jersey lives claimed by the virus at 13,741, with another 1,974 listed as “probably deaths.

“Unfathomable numbers,” he said.

Murphy acknowledged the heat advisory Monday urging residents to take it as an opportunity to stay indoors and socially distance.

He also sent condolences to U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and her family after a shooting at the judge’s home in North Brunswick killed her son and injured her husband.

When asked whether restaurants may could return to indoor dining, Murphy said it would depend on the numbers, but he noted that indoors is where the virus seems to spread most easily.

“It’s going to be the basic seven-day averages that you’re going to feel good about, and that includes the stuff we really care about: rate of transmission, spot positivity, new hospitalizations,” he said, adding also the confidence in self-quarantining measures.

“So far, we think, so far so good.”