With approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission and the National Indian Gaming Commission, the .7 billion Apollo Management and TPG Capital buyout of Harrah’s Entertainment cleared its final regulatory hurdles. The deal is now expected to close in early 2008. Harrah’s chairman and CEO Gary Loveman said the change to private ownership will not change the company’s direction or its plans. Loveman and the current management team will continue to handle day-to-day operations. The board of directors will consist of Loveman, four representatives from Apollo and four from TPG. ? Dubai World increased its holdings in MGM Mirage after buying about 5 million shares from controlling investor Kirk Kerkorian. Dubai World now holds 6.5 percent of the company, up from 4.9 percent. The total sale price was $424 million, or $84.80 a share. The company now has plans to submit a nominee for MGM Mirage’s board of directors after increasing its investment in the gaming giant. The company has that right now that it has more than 5 percent control of MGM Mirage. In 2007, Dubai World purchased 50 percent of CityCenter. ? The Northern Marianas House of Representatives has approved $500,000 to develop a casino gaming industry on the island of Rota. In November voters approved casino gaming for the island.? The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. ? SJM is planning to rebuild its Macau landmark casino resort, Hotel Lisboa. The project will begin in 2009 and is expected to be completed in 2012. SJM will hold an international architectural design contest to select the architect for the project. ? The Ukrainian subsidiary of Olympic Entertainment Group has opened a new slot casino in Kiev. The 232-square-meter casino has 44 slots and a spacious bar area. It is the company’s 15th Ukraine casino under the Olympic brand. Five more OEG casinos operate under the name Eldorado. ? Miami developer Gregg Colvin has big plans for the dingy Gold Spike casino he acquired over the summer. Colvin is in talks to purchase the adjacent Travel Inn and add it to the property, and he is planning on building a spa and new suites at the Downtown Las Vegas property. Covin expects to spend about $5 million on the 100 rooms in the Gold Spike replacing furniture, carpet, paint and fixtures throughout the hotel. Upgraded rooms, he said, would be comparable to rooms at the Golden Nugget and similarly priced. In addition to room upgrades, Covin plans to renovate the Gold Spike casino, bringing back table games, adding new restaurants and possibly bringing in a sports book. Covin is planning to build the new suites in what is now the property’s parking lot. The bungalows would be 550 square feet each, and would surround a pool and one-story spa. ? Now that the Kentucky legislature has opened its 2008 session, one of the big issues on its plate will be newly elected Governor Steve Beshear’s proposal to help solve the state’s budget problems by bringing in casinos. Democrat Beshear ran on that plank last fall, but his bill is just one of 1,000 or so being introduced in the General Assembly, and it is a constitutional amendment. The state has a budget deficit of $434 million this year with even higher numbers projected for 2008-2009. Beshear calls that situation a “crisis,” while GOP leaders in the Senate prefer to characterize it as “manageable.” Beshear opposes any tax increase, but wants to increase spending on infrastructure and says the only other way to raise revenues is through state-sponsored gaming. ? Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, opened its racing season on January 3, while putting the finishing touches on a revamped first-floor slot casino that is the beginning of the racino’s effort to transform its slot operation to profitability. The revamped first-floor casino includes 250 gaming machines, which are mostly high-payback video poker machines. It is part of a strategy by parent Magna Entertainment to reverse the fortunes of Gulfstream’s slot casino, which has been the lowest-grossing of the three racetrack slot operations in Florida’s Broward County. ? It’s bankruptcy for Slovenia’s Casino Portoroz. In December the district court in Kopar accepted the ruling to initiate proceedings. Creditors must submit their claims by the end of January, after which they have 30 days to contest the claims of other creditors in writing. ? A representative of Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is due to discuss a possible casino at Massachusetts’ Wonderland Park in Revere with the racetrack’s owner by the end of January. Wynn officials “think it’s a good market, and they would like to play in the market,” says owner Charlie Sarkis. Other companies seeking one of the state’s proposed three casino licenses are eying Wonderland as well.