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Codere Bets on Colombia Amid Overhaul of Casino Agency

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Codere SA, Spain’s only publicly traded casino operator, will boost investment in Colombia this year amid a government overhaul of industry regulation, said Diego Felipe Navarro, the company’s top official in the country.

Codere will increase its investments in Colombia by as much as 40 percent to about $21 million this year as it retools marketing and plans for the May opening of the Zona T Crown Casino in Bogota, to be Colombia’s biggest, Navarro said in an interview.

“Colombia’s new regulator has an administrative structure that will seek to promote gaming,” Navarro said from his office in Bogota. “Confidence in Colombia is up.”

Colombia seeks to boost government revenue from gambling fivefold in two years to 2 trillion pesos ($1.1 billion) as it creates new agencies to promote and regulate the industry, Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said in a statement in November. Coljuegos, a state-run gaming business, will begin operating as soon as next month, according to the ministry.

Founded in 1980, Codere first listed shares in October 2007. Latin America accounts for about 80 percent of the company’s revenue, compared with 62 percent in 2007, led by sales in Mexico, Argentina, Panama and Colombia, Navarro said.

Codere sold $300 million in 9.25 percent bonds due 2019 to help finance its purchase for about $200 million of a 36 percent stake in ICELA, owner of Mexican racetrack Hipodromo de Las Americas, from Corporacion Interamericana de Entretenimento SAB de CV, bringing Codere’s stake to 85 percent.

The bond sale was the first step in a strategy to convert Codere’s capital structure from euros into Latin American currencies and U.S. dollars as it prepares for a sale of a stake in its Latin American operations, according to a Feb. 1 e-mailed statement from the company. The company may form a Latin American unit to hold in the U.S. this year as European sales slump amid the region’s deficit crisis, Navarro said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Schmidt in Bogota at bschmidt16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Papadopoulos at papadopoulos@bloomberg.net

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