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US Gaming Group Eyeing Slovenia Again, Report Says

Ljubljana, 06 December (STA) - Gaming group Ceasar's Entertainment (formerly Harrah's) is again eying a partnership with Slovenia's biggest gaming chain, HIT, daily Delo writes on Monday.

Delo says that Ceasar's has offered EUR 60m to buy an unspecified stake in HIT. There is no more details about the offer, which is conditional on changes to Slovenia's gaming legislation.

Former HIT chairman Branko Tomazic told STA that all members of a Finance Ministry commission preparing a new gaming strategy received a document expressing Ceasar's interest in investing in HIT.

Tomazic confirmed Delo's writing that a letter from Ceasar's lobbyist mentions three possibilities for a partnership. According to Delo, this includes a complete takeover, partial takeover or a joint venture.

The paper says that Prime Minister Borut Pahor is said to be aware of Ceasar's interest, being acquainted with it during his visit to New York in late September.

The report comes as the government prepares to confirm the new gaming strategy that could include special exceptions for mega gaming centres.

Contrary to current legislation, the state would be able to reduce its ownership in such centres to below 51%, while they would also be subject to special tax breaks, writes Delo.

This would meet the key demands that Harrah's made when it wanted to build a mega gaming centre with HIT five years ago.

That plan was scrapped as the government failed to amend gaming legislation to meet the demands of the American company after months of consideration.

The project had been met with stiff opposition from civil and religious groups as well as some local governments in the area, who feared negative effects of the centre on society.

The new gaming strategy is scheduled to be debated by the coalition at a meeting on Tuesday.

Discussing the drafting of the gaming strategy in recent weeks, Pahor has said foreign investors should be welcome to participate in reviving the sector.

"One of the fundamental issues that must be cleared up is whether we will view gaming as some kind of a dirty activity...or we will accept that this is a legitimate business activity that must be regulated and supervised," said Pahor.

He said the main problem for Slovenia's gaming industry in recent years has been a drop in competitiveness. "We need to improve the quality of the services to make it competitive."

If the view prevails that gaming is a "legitimate part of tourism", then Slovenia will have to invest in gaming and invite foreign investors to participate, he added.

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