When you wish upon Ameristar, you can hit the jackpot on land or on boat. Ameristar Casinos owns six casino hotels and two casinos. Properties include Ameristar St. Charles and Ameristar Kansas City (both in Missouri), Ameristar Black Hawk (Colorado), and The Jackpot Properties (Nevada). Ameristar Casino Vicksburg in Mississippi is a permanently docked riverboat casino on the Mississippi River, and Ameristar Casinos' Council Bluffs (Iowa) riverboat casino sits on the Missouri River. Ameristar's casinos offer slot machines (the majority of gaming sales), blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker. The casinos also include movie theaters, shops, entertainment arenas, restaurants, bars, and private clubs.
The regional casino company's business model operates on a strategy of serving a clientele within driving distance of its properties. For example, its Ameristar Casino Hotel Council Bluffs serves the Omaha, Nebraska metropolitan area and southwestern Iowa, while its Ameristar Casino Hotel Vicksburg serves Jackson, Mississippi and Monroe, Louisiana, and its two properties in Jackpot, Nevada serve Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
Sales and Marketing
The company spent $29.7 million in 2012 on advertising expenses (included in selling, general, and administrative expenses). In 2012 MGM Resorts International and Ameristar entered into a strategic marketing relationship for the companies’ rewards programs.
Ameristar's revenue decreased by 2% in fiscal 2012 compared to fiscal 2011, due to decreases in revenue by 6% at Ameristar Kansas City, 5% at Ameristar East Chicago, and 5% at the Jackpot properties.
The increased competitive pressures in the Chicagoland and Kansas City markets, as well as the construction disruption at Cactus Petes, adversely impacted financial results in 2012. The decline in revenues was partially mitigated by the year-over-year improvements at Ameristar Black Hawk by 5%, Ameristar Vicksburg 1%, and Ameristar Council Bluffs 1%.
Ameristar's profits increased to $76 million in fiscal 2012, up from $7 million in fiscal 2011, mainly due decreased operating expenses.
The company has implemented operating and marketing efficiencies and significantly reduced its cost structure. These enhancements have improved its operating margins.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2012 Ameristar entered into an agreement and plan of merger with Pinnacle Entertainment. The merger is subject to customary closing conditions, required regulatory approvals, and approval by the company’s stockholders. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.
Also in 2012 acquired a riverboat casino project under development in Lake Charles, Louisiana for $32.5 million. Ameristar's plans call for a dockside casino with 1,600 slot machines and 70 table games, and a hotel with at least 700 rooms. The company bought the project to expand its geographic presence, and will market the casino to players from southeastern Texas (including Houston) and southwestern Louisiana.
In 2011 the company bought back 45% of its outstanding shares from the estate of its late founder, The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, representing more than 80% of Ameristar's holdings. Craig Neilsen, the former chairman, president, and CEO of the company, died in 2006 and his controlling stake in Ameristar moved to his trust. The company made the share buyback in order to return value to shareholders and leave public shareholders in greater control of the company. As part of the transaction, Ameristar refinanced more than $2 billion in debt.