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Edited Transcript of BYD earnings conference call or presentation 25-Oct-18 9:00pm GMT

Q3 2018 Boyd Gaming Corp Earnings Call

LAS VEGAS Nov 5, 2018 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Boyd Gaming Corp earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 9:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Josh Hirsberg

Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer

* Keith E. Smith

Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Carlo Santarelli

Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Chad C. Beynon

Macquarie Research - Head of US Consumer, SVP and Senior Analyst

* David Brian Katz

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Equity Analyst of Gaming, Lodging & Leisure

* Harry Croyle Curtis

Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging

* Joseph Richard Greff

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD

* Kelvin Wong

Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Shaun Clisby Kelley

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - MD

* Steven Moyer Wieczynski

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Gaming & Leisure Research Analyst

* Thomas Glassbrooke Allen

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Senior Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, and welcome to the Boyd Gaming Third Quarter 2018 Earnings Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please note, this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Josh Hirsberg, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead.

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [2]

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Thank you, Nicole. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our third quarter earnings conference call. Joining me on the call this afternoon is Keith Smith, our President and Chief Executive Officer.

Our comments today will include statements that are forward-looking statements within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. All forward-looking statements in our comments are as of today's date, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements.

Actual results may differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statement. There are certain risks and uncertainties, including those disclosed in our filings with the SEC, that may impact our results.

During our call today, we will make reference to non-GAAP financial measures. For a complete reconciliation of historical non-GAAP to GAAP financial measures, please refer to our earnings press release and our Form 8-K furnished to the SEC today and both of which are available on the Investor Relations section of our website at boydgaming.com.

We do not provide a reconciliation of forward-looking non-GAAP financial measures due to our inability to project special charges and certain expenses. Finally, today's call is also being webcast live at boydgaming.com, and will be available for replay in the Investor Relations section of our website shortly after the completion of this call.

I'd now like to turn the call over to Keith Smith. Keith?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thanks, Josh, and good afternoon, everyone. In the 3 months since our last call, we've made significant progress positioning our company for future growth. Last week, we completed the acquisition of our 4 newest properties, Ameristar St. Charles, Ameristar Kansas City, Belterra Resort and Belterra Park.

These additions came less than 30 days after we acquired Valley Forge Casino Resort near Philadelphia. Together, these transactions have expanded our reach into 3 new states and 4 major metro areas, while increasing our free cash flow potential by $60 million.

With 29 properties across 10 states, we have further cemented Boyd Gaming's position as one of the nation's largest and most diversified gaming entertainment companies.

We also forged a new partnership with FanDuel Group during the quarter that will allow us to take advantage of emerging growth opportunity in sports wagering and interactive gaming across the country.

And we launched our redesigned player loyalty program, B Connected, significantly enhancing its competitive appeal to our core customer base. We accomplished all of this while maintaining our focus on driving sustained improvement throughout our operations.

During the quarter, we delivered continued same-store EBITDA growth and margin improvement across the portfolio, thanks largely to our ongoing initiative to drive profitable revenues through more efficient marketing programs and operational refinements.

In our Las Vegas Locals business, this initiative helped produce an EBITDA gain of nearly 7% marking our 14th consecutive quarter of EBITDA growth in this segment.

As we have noted before, our strategic focus on maximizing profitable revenues is having an impact on overall revenues in the segment. A good example of this focus on driving profitable revenues and achieving greater efficiencies is the Eastside Cannery. Since we acquired Eastside in 2016, we've been operating this property as a single entity with Sam's Town Las Vegas, taking full advantage of our efficiencies of scale.

And over the last 2 years, combined revenues at these 2 properties are down 10%. But combined EBITDA is up more than 40%. Their combined margins have increased more than 700 basis points over this period, and EBITDA has grown for 7 consecutive quarters. Sam's Town and Eastside Cannery are just one example of how this initiative is delivering strong returns across the Locals portfolio.

In all, our ongoing refinements resulted in a margin improvement of nearly 200 basis points in the Locals segment during the third quarter. We have steadily improved segment margins for 6 consecutive years now, improving LTM margins by 900 basis points since 2012.

And while much has been made of recent operating trends on the Strip, the broader southern Nevada economy remains strong and vibrant and our local customers are the beneficiaries. Over the last 12 months, total employment in southern Nevada has increased nearly 4%, twice the national growth rate. Las Vegas Valley continues to see job growth in nearly every sector of the economy.

As employment continues to increase, so have wages. Over the trailing 12 months, average wages were up nearly 4% in southern Nevada outpacing the national average. This wage growth is driving strong gains in consumer spending. Through July, taxable sales were up 4.6% over the trailing 12 months, an indicator of solid growth and discretionary spending throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

Positive trends are continuing in Downtown Las Vegas as well. Our 3 downtown properties continue to deliver strong EBITDA and margin performances despite higher fuel costs at our Hawaiian charter service and ongoing construction disruption from resort and freeway projects in the downtown area. During the quarter, Fremont set new third quarter records for revenue, EBITDA and margins as the property benefits from the steady increases in pedestrian traffic in the downtown area.

And over at the California, EBITDA for the quarter grew more than 10%. Our recent renovations at this property are driving strong growth in visitation both from our Hawaiian customers and downtown visitors in general.

In all, segment EBITDA was up more than 5% year-over-year, before adjusting for a $900,000 cost increase at our charter service. Overall, Downtown Las Vegas has emerged as a vibrant market. Long-term reinvestments and revitalization efforts are drawing more visitors than ever as new customers come downtown to experience the authenticity and value of Downtown Las Vegas.

Our 3 properties will continue to benefit from downtown's reemergence as a must-see destination. And we remain optimistic about our long-term prospects in this market.

Moving outside of Nevada. Broad-based growth and positive trends continue throughout our regional operations. Much like Nevada, we are delivering stronger results in our regional operations through new marketing and operational efficiencies and benefiting from widespread economic strength.

EBITDA for the Midwest and South segment was up 8.5% during the quarter. This includes $3.5 million in contributions from 2 recently acquired assets, Valley Forge and Lattner Entertainment. On a same-store basis, both revenue and EBITDA grew with continued margin improvements throughout the Midwest and South segment. We produced strong results along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast, with EBITDA growth at Delta Downs, Treasure Chest, IP, Evangeline Downs and Amelia Belle.

To the north, the Blue Chip team continues to do a great job in the face of new competition in South Bend. Through marketing refinements and operational improvements, Blue Chip was again able to minimize its EBITDA shortfall and continues to perform ahead of our earlier projections. We also saw EBITDA growth and margin improvement at our 2 Iowa properties, which are benefiting from a strong regional economy.

Across the country, our operating teams remain focused on driving profitable revenues and EBITDA growth through refined marketing and efficient operations, and they are succeeding. Company-wide operating margins have reached their highest third quarter levels since 2005.

Looking ahead, we will work to achieve similar results at our newest properties as we begin the process of integrating these assets into our company and leveraging our size, scale and infrastructure to drive incremental growth. With our 2 recent acquisitions, we have gained a strong presence in 4 of the top 30 MSAs in the country: Kansas City, Saint Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, gaining access to millions of potential new customers and the opportunity to drive new visitation to our destination properties in Las Vegas, the Midwest and the Gulf Coast.

Beyond these acquisitions, we also continue to make good progress on other growth initiatives, including our agreement to develop and manage a resort on behalf of the Wilton Rancheria Tribe near Sacramento, California. We are working closely with the tribe to finalize the scope and design of this project and plan to secure financing and begin construction next year. Our location is ideally positioned to serve both the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay markets, making this project a significant opportunity for the tribe as well as our company.

In addition to expanding our geographic presence, we also continue to diversify our gaming product, expanding our appeal to a broader group of customers. A good example is the emerging national opportunity in sports betting and the partnerships we have put into place to help us make the most of this opportunity. In August, we joined forces with FanDuel Group, a global leader in digital sports betting with a proven record of innovation and entertainment.

For years, the FanDuel brand has been a consistent advertising presence on televised sporting events across the country. Our new partnership will allow us to combine Boyd Gaming's 40 years of sports betting experience with FanDuel's considerable brand equity providing us a significant competitive advantage as we introduce sports wagering in new markets.

And through our recent market access agreement with MGM Resorts, we will have the opportunity to offer sports betting in 5 additional states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey and New York, subject to the approval of legislation and regulation in these states. In all, we have the potential access to 15 states across the country, representing more than 36% of the U.S. population.

Our expansion into this new business has just begun. In August, we opened sports books at the IP, in Sam's Town Tunica in Mississippi. And in Pennsylvania, we are now working with FanDuel to introduce both on-premise and mobile sports betting at Valley Forge sometime next year. We expect more opportunities will emerge over the next several years as additional states move forward with the legalization and regulation of sports wagering.

This is a unique moment in our industry, a chance to use an attractive new amenity to expand our appeal to new customers and drive incremental visitation to our properties across the country.

And as online and mobile sports betting expand across the country, we believe it will provide additional opportunities for growth in other forms of interactive gaming.

As this digital evolution of our industry continues, we will be in an excellent position to capitalize on it. Our partnership with FanDuel provides Boyd Gaming with more than a brand. It also gives us access to the substantial interactive gaming experience and infrastructure of Paddy Power Betfair, one of the world's largest online gaming operators.

Through this partnership, we will be able to quickly activate new interactive gaming offerings across the country starting in Pennsylvania, where we have already applied for an interactive gaming license. And while we will actively explore opportunities to offer new forms of gaming, we will also continue to make strategic, targeted investments to expand and enhance our existing properties in key growth markets.

We will also continue to look for opportunities to improve our core operations. An example of this is the recent relaunch of our player loyalty program B Connected. In August, we relaunched this program with significantly enhanced benefits designed to strengthen its appeal to our core customers and to drive greater loyalty to our brand across the country. And starting early next year, we will begin expanding B Connected to every property in our nationwide portfolio, including our 5 new acquisitions.

We will also look to integrate B Connected with our new gaming products, including sports betting and interactive gaming. As the expansion and evolution of our company continues, B Connected will become an increasingly valuable asset to us. We will keep adding new customers to our database and gain new opportunities to leverage this expanded database to drive increased visitation by our customers across our nationwide portfolio.

So in conclusion, the last several months have been an eventful and successful time for our company. We continue to deliver strong and sustained improvement in our core operations. We expanded our size, scale and geographic reach through the acquisition of 5 new properties. And we've struck new partnerships with industry leaders that will help ensure that Boyd Gaming remains on the cutting edge of our industry and well positioned to appeal to a growing range of customers as the evolution of gaming continues.

In all, we continue to successfully execute a well-balanced strategic plan to create long-term value for our shareholders, and I remain confident in our future prospects. Thank you for your time this afternoon. I'd now like to turn the call over to Josh. Josh?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [4]

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Thank you, Keith. The third quarter marked another successful quarter for our company as we continue to perform at a high level, generating strong and growing free cash flow. And we are focused on putting this free cash flow to work by strengthening our balance sheet while pursuing a thoughtful approach to growth and capital allocation. I will start by taking a few minutes to highlight key financial information from the quarter.

We paid our quarterly dividend of $0.06 per share on July 15. And repurchased approximately 415,000 shares of stock during the quarter at an average price of $35.03. Through the end of the third quarter, we have repurchased year-to-date approximately 1.3 million shares at an average price of $35.18.

We have approximately $15 million remaining under our current share repurchase authorization. Inclusive of the quarterly dividend we paid in October, we have returned almost $70 million year-to-date to shareholders in the forms of dividends and share repurchases.

We had 112 million shares outstanding at September 30.

In terms of the income statement, our corporate expense was higher during the quarter primarily due to new charitable contribution commitments we initiated during the third quarter. Preopening expense in the quarter reflected the rollout of our new player loyalty card program, Wilton development costs and acquisition expenses related to Pinnacle and Valley Forge.

Third quarter interest expense reflected the first full quarter that our $700 million 6% senior notes were outstanding. Proceeds from this bond offering as well as borrowings under our credit facility were used to fund the Valley Forge and Pinnacle acquisitions.

Leverage at the end of the quarter was approximately 5.1x EBITDA. By year-end, we expect the leverage to remain at approximately these same levels, including the acquisition of the Pinnacle asset.

On a lease adjusted basis, this translates into leverage of approximately 5.6x EBITDAR.

After funding the Pinnacle acquisition, our availability under our credit facilities was approximately $580 million. We expect to achieve our target leverage of between 4x and 5x EBITDA on a traditional basis by early next year. We provided our quarter-end debt and cash balances in our earnings release. Capital expenditures during the quarter were approximately $43 million. Year-to-date capital expenditures totaled $108 million.

Moving now to annual guidance. As noted in our release, we now expect full year EBITDAR, after corporate expense and before master lease rent expense, to be in the range of $660 million to $675 million. This projection confirms the annual guidance we provided during our second quarter earnings call and incorporates the anticipated partial year contributions from the acquisitions of Valley Forge and the 4 Pinnacle assets. We expect Valley Forge and the Pinnacle assets to contribute, in 2018, approximately $45 million to $47 million in EBITDAR, less incremental corporate expense of approximately $4 million related to the acquisitions.

Recall the full year guidance we provided last quarter did not include either of these acquisitions but did include $5 million of incremental EBITDAR for the June 1 Lattner acquisition.

The master lease that we entered as part of the Pinnacle transaction will be accounted for as an operating lease, both under current accounting rules as well as the new lease accounting standards that we will adopt next year. We expect rent under the master lease for the 2.5 months during the fourth quarter that we will own the Pinnacle assets to be approximately $21 million.

Our master lease does not include Belterra Park, which was excluded from the lease for regulatory reasons. With respect to Belterra Park, our purchase of the real estate associated with this asset was financed with a $57.7 million mortgage provided by GLPI. The initial annual interest expense associated with this mortgage is estimated to be $6.4 million or about $1.4 million for the 2.5 months remaining in this year. Adjustments to this interest expense mirror rent calculations under the -- in the underlying lease.

Rent coverage for the Pinnacle properties is estimated to be approximately 2x property EBITDAR on a stand-alone basis and approximately 9.5x on a consolidated basis.

Switching to the fourth quarter. We expect corporate expense to be $24 million, which includes the $4 million that I spoke about earlier related to the acquisition, and we expect interest expense to be $58 million. Both of these line items are higher than we would've originally guided as a result of the acquisitions.

The higher level of corporate expense reflects the infrastructure we needed to duplicate to support the 4 Pinnacle properties. More than half of this cost is related to IT systems, which will be largely eliminated once we transition to a common technology platform that allows us to leverage our shared services environment. The increase in interest expense reflects the debt we incurred to finance the acquisitions as well as the Belterra Park mortgage interest expense.

While we are not prepared to provide 2019 guidance, based on the information we have previously provided to you related to the acquisitions we consummated this year, we expect, on a combined basis, Lattner, Valley Forge and the Pinnacle assets to generate approximately $250 million in EBITDAR on a full year basis. This estimate includes the synergies we expect to capture during our first year of ownership of these assets as well as the incremental benefits of expanding the slot floor by 250 units at Valley Forge, which we expect to complete by the end of this year.

We expect 2019 rent expense of approximately $98 million, which assumes the full escalation on the building rent component, and we expect the interest expense associated with Belterra Park's mortgage to be approximately $6.4 million. Consistent with our past practice, we plan to provide full year 2019 EBITDAR guidance as well as other items that may be of importance to you when we release our fourth quarter earnings.

Nicole, that concludes our prepared remarks and we are now ready to take any questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Carlo Santarelli of Deutsche Bank.

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Carlo Santarelli, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [2]

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When we look, obviously, at the Las Vegas Locals macro data everything remains fairly strong. Obviously, the data that the state provides on a month-by-month basis could be a little choppy as the way the calendar accounts.

And when we see kind of your results -- or I should say as we try and read between lines of the state data and your results and then see your results kind of flattish this quarter, completely acknowledging some of the efforts you're putting forth to drive EBITDA and profitable revenue, is there any change in kind of what you're seeing in the top line trajectory of the Locals market right now?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [3]

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This is Keith. No, I don't think there's any real change. As we noted in our prepared comments, that we think the market is strong and continues to grow. We focus on profitable revenues, and therefore, as we called out about Sam's Town and Eastside Cannery, it tends to diminish the total revenue.

When we look at our properties that -- and I've said this on earlier calls, that are further along in our process of refining their marketing, we see the growth in kind of that group of properties that mirrors the market. In some cases, it maybe slightly exceeds and, in some cases, it maybe falls a little short. But in the aggregate, it mirrors the market. So I think we're seeing good growth, and I think the market overall remains strong.

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Carlo Santarelli, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [4]

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Great. And then as you think about the assets and -- sorry, I think, Josh, you said $250 million, 2-5-0 was the number for next year in terms of the expected contribution. I believe, at the time of acquisition, the Pinnacle assets were doing maybe $197 million, and you guys talked about $8 million of synergies. Valley Forge was maybe mid-20s, and your number there looked more like $40 million and Lattner kind of $10 million to $12 million.

I'm assuming there's operational improvements, and then you would have incremental synergies on top of that, because I think I just solved for the $250 million right there. Is that somewhat of a conservative number as you think about those assets for '19?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [5]

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Yes. So Carlo, I think you're -- you took the numbers that we had previously provided and add them together to get to the $250 million that we provided and that was just what we were trying to remind people. We were not really trying to provide a 2019 number at this point. It was encouraging that you did exactly what we did to get to that number.

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Carlo Santarelli, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [6]

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The other thing, Josh, and I kind of missed this. But I know you said $4 million of incremental corporate and then -- for the fourth quarter, so implying a $16 million run rate, but then you said more than half of this will be alleviated over time. Is that correct?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [7]

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Yes, that -- yes, that's correct, Carlo. Once again you hit the nail on the head. You got it.

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Operator [8]

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Our next question comes from Joe Greff of JPMorgan.

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Joseph Richard Greff, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [9]

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I'd like to just follow-up on a question that Carlo asked about the Locals market. I know one of your competitors was talking about, during the 3Q, there were some pockets of softness, I think, earlier in the summer. Can you just talk about specifically what you saw there in the summer and maybe that's specific to others in that -- even the Locals market?

And then just more broadly in the Locals market, can you talk about are you seeing any increased promotions or activity particularly from a property that's undergoing some CapEx activity?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [10]

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Look, from a promotional standpoint, I would describe it this way. Kind of largely or relatively speaking, the promotional environment is stable with the exception of those properties who will have -- who are trying to create additional exposure or drive new trial to newly renovated assets. But outside of that particular issue, then the market is stable.

As we look to revenue growth as we look through the third quarter, look, third quarter was challenging because you had some big calendar changes that really moved revenues around. There's been a lot talked about the summer and business volumes on the Strip, and we saw a little softness in the hotel business in July, but it largely mitigated itself in August and September and hasn't carried through.

And so we're not seeing those trends. The trends we're seeing in October are largely similar to the trends we saw in Q3. And so I think we feel good about the business and where it's trending and where it's heading and don't really see any differences.

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Joseph Richard Greff, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [11]

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Okay, great. And then Josh, just on the corporate expense. I kind of understand the math here. Do you think the incremental $16 million of the past, that IT, that other $8 million, does that also go away? Or is that sort of permanent? Or does that alter, maybe, with the synergies that are anticipated over time and included in that incremental $250 million of EBITDA?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [12]

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No, so there's a lot -- there's several facets to the remaining piece. What I would basically tell you is we anticipated a level of increased corporate expense related to the Pinnacle transaction, largely to the people we were going to need to hire to help support those assets, not only in our incremental shared services function but also because we were bringing on more properties, we knew we would need those people. And that's part of the $16 million kind of annualized run rate number. Those folks will continue to stay with us.

But we contemplated that when we provided synergy numbers, and so that was a net synergy number, net of those increased costs that we expected to incur. I think the part that we didn't really communicate to folks until we got our hands around it was just this ongoing kind of temporary costs that we were going to incur and then kind of rationalize as we go through time.

So there's a part that we had contemplated and discussed around kind of the net synergies number that we communicated to folks and then there is the part that we will deal with kind of in the next year or so as we bring technology -- get on a consistent technology platform.

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Joseph Richard Greff, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [13]

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Okay, great. And then my final question is, with respect to the Pinnacle and the Valley Forge acquisition, the incremental CapEx maybe on a -- kind of a 2019 basis, just so that we're starting off next year modeling that correctly.

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [14]

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We're going through our CapEx budgeting process and, more broadly, just budgeting process generally right now. So that's why we're in a little bit of an awkward position of not being able to talk about 2019. While we would like to give you some color, we're just not in a position to do that.

I think I would just kind of point you back to kind of what we said when we made these acquisitions. And I am going to say that it was like $15 million to $20 million on Pinnacle and about $5 million for Valley Forge. And those are full year numbers, and I wouldn't expect those to be run rates that you would see in Q4, but most likely, as we go through our planning process in 2019, those would be, directionally, where we most likely end up for those assets.

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Operator [15]

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Our next question comes from David Katz of Jefferies.

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David Brian Katz, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Equity Analyst of Gaming, Lodging & Leisure [16]

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I wanted to ask if you could share with us how we might be thinking about CapEx and other sort of capital needs as we think through the next several quarters. And in particular, you highlighted the tribe -- the tribal opportunity and any financing submission that Boyd might have to make that we should be thinking about as we roll out as well.

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [17]

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Yes. So Dave, we've generally provided guidance for this year -- for CapEx for this year of about $150 million. We've spent about, I believe, it was $108 million year-to-date, so we'll probably come in below the $150 million as we typically do.

In terms of the tribal advances that we've made, they're not going to be meaningfully different than what we've done to date. And so that's not -- I think we've advanced about $70 million or so. About half of that was for the purchase of the land that we acquired in January of 2017, I believe. And then it's going to be another $5 million or $10 million, generally, is what we would expect.

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David Brian Katz, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Equity Analyst of Gaming, Lodging & Leisure [18]

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And just how we might think about maintenance CapEx or other CapEx needs looking at '19? Anything you can help us with there?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [19]

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Again, we're in the middle of our budgeting process so I can't give any color other than what we gave for 2018 at this point and that was about $150 million. So -- and we're on track to spend less than that. So I think that's generally a good, probably, proxy. But we won't know until we get through our budgeting process.

And when we get to our fourth quarter release, we'll be able to give you a little bit more color. It's a combination of the kind of proxy for 2018 plus the new assets that we're bringing on board. That ought to get you close.

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David Brian Katz, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Equity Analyst of Gaming, Lodging & Leisure [20]

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Congratulations.

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Operator [21]

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Our next question comes from Shaun Kelley of Bank of America.

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Shaun Clisby Kelley, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - MD [22]

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Just to follow-up on the Locals discussion, which I think you kind of led off with a little bit. Just -- Keith, I think you mentioned directly that you saw properties -- you saw all the properties in the quarter grow, excluding, I think it was the kind of combination of Cannery and Sam's Town, if I caught it correctly.

Could you give us any just sense of magnitude. I know it's sort of like a same-store type analysis or number. But I mean, are we seeing growth in the low-single digits in the market? Is it even a little bit better than that? Or just kind of what do you think the core trajectory is in Locals right now?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [23]

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Well, I think when you look -- remember, this information is somewhat dated because they're behind and so we only have information through August at this point. I think, what the growth you're seeing in the Locals market, in the aggregate, is low single digits.

You saw that -- if you look at a year-to-date basis through August, you'll see the same thing, kind of low single digits, sub-5% range. And as I said, when you kind of look at the aggregate of our properties, Sam's Town and Eastside Cannery, you see us performing generally in line with the market.

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Shaun Clisby Kelley, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - MD [24]

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Okay, that's helpful. And then, the only other question from me, well, what was on the synergy front? I think you touched on this already Josh, but is what we're experiencing in '19 that's built into the $250 million, is that the full complement of sort of what you think you can achieve out of these assets?

Or is there a little bit more, just given that you're not at full run rate in '19, is there a little bit more that's going to bleed over into '20? And kind of how are you thinking about like what that total lift might be all in?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [25]

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Yes, so I'm only going to talk about what we've previously discussed with you when we announced the acquisitions at this point, again, because we're not ready to talk about 2019. But what I would say is, is when we announced the Pinnacle acquisition, we said synergies were going to be about $8 million on an annual basis.

And so we'll have to -- it will take us some time to get up to that run rate. And so we haven't built all of those synergies in for next year. And same kind of thing with Valley Forge, where there's certainly opportunities to hit the ground running with the slots that we expect to have in by the end of the year, which will contribute to being able to achieve the $40 million that we spoke about.

And then the $5 million of synergies, I would expect that we'll get a lot of them. But obviously, they'll ramp over time, and they may not total $5 million by the end of the year. So I think you have to realize they're not going to all come on day 1 but come over time. And that time period could -- will be built out over the first year to 1.5 years of our owning those assets.

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Shaun Clisby Kelley, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - MD [26]

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Great. And then last question would just be on the FanDuel partnership, and I'm just a little bit confused. Could you just explain a little bit more how exactly your relationship with FanDuel sort of interacts with the market access agreement with MGM and GBC?

Other people may know this, but I just kind of -- I just wanted to understand a little bit better. Is this going to be your -- Boyd's go-to-market strategy and the market access agreement kind of goes both ways or just sort of exactly how does this partnership fit into that agreement?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [27]

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I think you should think of the market access agreement with MGM, it's a 2-way street. So we're providing them access to our states, they are providing us access to their states.

This is to the extent that, obviously, legislation is approved and to the extent that as we are -- have begun to call them, skins are available to be issued. Because obviously, MGM will keep the first skin or 2 for themselves and we'll get -- if there are skins available, we will have the opportunity to open, same as in our states.

So just think of it as a 2-way street, if there is the opportunity for them to provide us access, then we get access after they get access and before anybody else might get access and same on our side.

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Operator [28]

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Our next question comes from Harry Curtis of Nomura.

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Harry Croyle Curtis, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging [29]

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I wanted to start with a couple of more mundane questions and then go to a bigger picture question. Josh, the more traditional leverage target of 4 to 5x by early 2019, are you assuming any debt paydown? Or is it going to be more driven by EBITDA lift or a combination of the two?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [30]

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I think, it's definitely a combination of the two. We expect EBITDA to continue to grow, and we expect to use our free cash flow to continue to deleverage, and that we're committed to achieving our target leverage levels that we've stated for everyone.

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Harry Croyle Curtis, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging [31]

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Okay. And then you mentioned quarter-end share count of 112 million shares. The press release says 115 million. Is that the -- is that just the weighted average and the difference between an average and a quarter-end number?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [32]

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Exactly. The 112 million is what was actually outstanding at the end of the quarter. And then the 115 million is a weighted average throughout the quarter, and fully diluted.

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Harry Croyle Curtis, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging [33]

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Okay. Then turning to the Locals market. Going back 8 years ago, I don't know if you can remember, but I just was curious if the -- we don't remember much these days. The -- when the Palms was firing on all cylinders, to what degree did it -- how did your casinos perform? Do they tend to perform well when the Palms is doing well? Or are they competitive?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [34]

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No, I think that our best years at the Gold Coast were some of the -- if we look at it, were the best years that both the Palms and the Rio were having. And so to the extent their business is strong, we get great overflow business from those other properties. There's more people in the neighborhood. We have a product that is differentiated and may be priced differently. And so we get a lot of crossover traffic from both of those properties.

That's why we've said from the beginning that we were very excited to have Red Rock be the owner of the Palms, and have them be -- have them investing the type of money that they're investing in that product to grow the business in the area. And so as that business continues to grow, I think that we will, long term, benefit from it. In the short term, will we see a little bit of disruption? Sure, it's natural as customers visit other properties. But long term, it's a net benefit to us.

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Harry Croyle Curtis, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging [35]

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Okay. And then lastly, I wanted to get a better sense of your longer-term strategy, because you're doing some interesting M&A work, then it's now followed by the rejuvenation of your loyalty program. And is there a next step where, with this loyalty program, your customers really will want some Strip exposure?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [36]

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Well, we have plenty of assets in the Las Vegas market for our out-of-state customers or regional customers to come and visit. We currently host them at a number of our properties. And a lot of them like, actually, Downtown Las Vegas experience because of what I said, the authenticity and the value orientation of that market.

We have said, over the course of years, that we'd like to get back on the Strip for the right asset at the right price but certainly nothing we're going to -- we're not going to do anything stupid in order to get there, but if there was the opportunity we would, but right now, there isn't.

And so it isn't -- we're not laser focused on it, but it's certainly on a list of things that could be interesting to us in the future as well as there's a whole number -- a whole list of other things that are interesting to us that are part of our overall strategic plan that we plan on executing on.

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Harry Croyle Curtis, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst of Gaming, Leisure & Lodging [37]

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Is it -- so is it more related to price as opposed to having the pieces in place as you build out your regional presence and the loyalty program?

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [38]

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Harry, I think as we think about a potential acquisition on the Strip, if it were available to us, it would have to meet the same criteria the others that we have pursued have and that would mean there'd have to be -- it'd have to be -- create -- and be important to us strategically. The value would have to be there, free cash flow aspects of it would have to be there.

And I think, having the kind of nationwide footprint and the loyalty program are important to us today. And we feel like we can benefit from having that and see the benefits of having that and that would just be an incremental attribute or synergy that we would expect to derive from owning something on the Strip.

But I think it would just -- it wouldn't be a -- it's not because we have this expanded platform and we have a loyalty card that we go, okay, now we've got to go pay up for an asset on the Strip. I don't think that's what falls out of having the attributes that we've put in place. It's really no different than evaluating other opportunities as they come our way. I think that's the way you have to do it.

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Operator [39]

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Our next question comes from Thomas Allen of Morgan Stanley.

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Thomas Glassbrooke Allen, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Senior Analyst [40]

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So on the properties that you're purchasing, I mean, if you look at their revenue performance over the past few quarters since you've announced the acquisition, it seems like they've been doing really well. We obviously don't know about EBITDA. So how much -- how should we think about your guidance in that context?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [41]

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So Thomas, I think Josh has tried to say this 2 or 3 different ways, which is we're not giving guidance for 2019. And his description of the $250 million was simply to put some guardrails around a number for everybody as they started to model for '19.

We'll provide full guidance as we always do at our February call for our Q4 call. But until then, any more specifics on CapEx or what we think EBITDA is doing or the growth in the business, and we're just not in a position to provide but will occur in February. So I'm not sure there's anything more we can say on that topic.

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Thomas Glassbrooke Allen, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Senior Analyst [42]

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Okay. And then in terms of FanDuel, if you look at New Jersey numbers, FanDuel has obviously been taking a lot of share there. Are you think -- do you think that that's replicable in other markets, how are you thinking about them in terms of, yes, other markets?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [43]

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I think FanDuel is a great partner for us, they're a great brand. They've partnered with Paddy Power, who's got great technology. And I think, overall, that they have the ability to really own a large chunk of sports betting across the U.S. And I think, partnering with them enables us to participate in that. I just think, overall, it's a great long-term partnership.

Look, sports betting is a couple of months old, and we have yet to see exactly how it's going to play out in any of the states. The early numbers are good, but they're early numbers. And we'll have to see as other states adopt it.

But FanDuel has done a great job early on. We're very excited by what we've seen out of them and really happy that we entered into that agreement and that partnership with them.

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Operator [44]

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Our next question comes from Steve Wieczynski of Stifel.

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Steven Moyer Wieczynski, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Gaming & Leisure Research Analyst [45]

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So Keith, I wanted to follow-up on your last answer there, but I know it's only been, I guess, about 3 months since IP and Sam's Town has had sports betting. Could you maybe help us think about, though, what you've seen in terms of visitation levels or trends around table drop or slot drop since that has gone live?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [46]

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So I would describe it in a couple of different ways. One, it's certainly been incrementally positive to the business. We're seeing new faces or faces, whether they're brand-new or maybe people, customers we haven't seen in a while as you talk to the management team at both those properties. So it feels like it's driving incremental visits. Some of the food and beverage operations are performing better.

But net-net, when you look at a property like the IP, this will not be a game changer for the property. It's incrementally positive, it's additive, but it's not going to change the natural trajectory of the business, same with Tunica. That could be different in other states, but with respect to those couple of operations, it's getting incrementally positive, and we are seeing new customers.

Probably we'll expect it -- not probably, expect it to continue to grow over time. But it's not going to add $5 million or $10 million in EBITDA to the property's bottom line next year.

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Steven Moyer Wieczynski, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Gaming & Leisure Research Analyst [47]

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Okay, got you. And then second question would be just around maybe what you guys are seeing across your portfolio in terms of unrated play? And if I missed that earlier in your comments, I apologize.

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [48]

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You did not miss it. Actually, we didn't talk about it. Good question. So we continue to see growth in unrated across the portfolio, in the LVL downtown and throughout the Midwest and South. We've talked about it before, it was kind of the first business to go away and the last business to come back.

Each of the markets is somewhat different, but we've had a number of consecutive quarters, if not consecutive years, where we've seen the unrated coin-in and unrated play grow at -- almost across the board. It continued in Q3 once again.

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Operator [49]

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Our next question comes from Kelvin Wong of Barclays.

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Kelvin Wong, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [50]

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Got some bigger picture stuff. Given all the acquisitions this year, can you describe how that would impact the margin expansion plan you guys announced a while ago?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [51]

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Sure. So it will obviously have a fairly significant impact in trying to kind of reconcile that and understand it. So when you think about a Lattner Entertainment, which is a slot route business, or you think about a Valley Forge, that has very, very strong revenues but very low margins, because they operate in a 50-plus percent tax rate environment, it will have some impact to that.

With respect to margins overall, I think we've done a great job over the last several years. On a company-wide basis, if you look back 2 to 3 years, growing at more than 200 basis points, I think there's room to continue to expand our margins. I think there will always be room to continue to expand them, but it will be a difficult comparison going forward.

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Kelvin Wong, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [52]

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Okay. I just have another question. What are the key differences between the old and new loyalty program?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [53]

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So when we relaunched the loyalty program, we just added some benefits for different tiers, so there are additional opportunities, whether for trips, for cruises, for gifts for different levels of customers.

So we made it a little richer for them to make sure that they had a reason to continue to remain loyal to us and play at a Boyd Gaming property. So it was a combination of trips and gifts and offerings, shows and other things, unique experiences or unique trips that they could go on.

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Operator [54]

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We have time for one last question. Our last question is from Chad Beynon of Macquarie.

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Chad C. Beynon, Macquarie Research - Head of US Consumer, SVP and Senior Analyst [55]

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First, wanted to just start on Delta Downs. Clearly, a property that has performed very well over the past 4 quarters. It looks like the hotel is taking hold, and obviously, it's benefiting from what's going on in the region. Could you talk about that property as it stands right now?

And is it fair to assume that flow-through from those revenues could actually be stronger than other properties in your Midwest and South just because of the size and scope of the property and the lack of table games?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [56]

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I wouldn't anticipate that they're stronger. We have an effective 36%, 37% tax rate at Delta Downs because it's the core rate in the low-20s for the state plus a tax to the horsemen that goes to purse funds. And so we have, actually, a fairly -- one of the highest tax rates in the portfolio next to Valley Forge there.

So the flow-through maybe not -- would not be as strong as you would think. It is true, it is slots-only. And so therefore, we don't -- it is a little higher than the table games side, but I would temper your expectations on that front.

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Chad C. Beynon, Macquarie Research - Head of US Consumer, SVP and Senior Analyst [57]

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Got you. And then moving to Mississippi and Biloxi, I know when Scarlet Pearl opened up, I don't think you lost much market share. I believe there's another property opening up in the first quarter of '19.

Should we assume that this competitor will kind of take a bigger slice out of that pie? Or have you already implemented strategies and you kind of have your loyalty database in place where you think you can defend that?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [58]

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When you go back and you look at the opening of the Scarlet Pearl, we actually probably had a little larger impact overall than we thought because it literally is kind of across the Back Bay from the IP and it is closest competition, if you will. And so we had a little bit bigger of an impact.

I think we've worked our way through that since that opening. We don't see anything else significant happening in the market, going forward. So I think we feel pretty good about 2019 at the IP.

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Chad C. Beynon, Macquarie Research - Head of US Consumer, SVP and Senior Analyst [59]

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Okay, great. And then if I can squeeze in one last one, given where your stock is and lots of different avenues to deploy the capital, I know, Josh, you said you're still coming up with your budget.

But how does a Louisiana transition to land kind of fit into this from a return standpoint, as you see it right now? And has there been any more commentary from the government in terms of how much you would have to spend to move on land?

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Keith E. Smith, Boyd Gaming Corporation - President, CEO & Director [60]

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Yes, Chad. This is Keith. So look, I think our greatest opportunity in the Louisiana area is at our Treasure Chest property just outside of New Orleans in Kenner, Louisiana. We've got a great property there. It's been performing at a very high level for the last several years, continuing to grow EBITDA. And so that is ripe to be put on land because we have a three-story riverboat that has been there since the beginning.

Having said that, that is a little ways off. There has to be a lot of work done on our part to design it and look at it and then actually build something. So it's certainly not a 2019 project, maybe it's a 2020 project or a 2021 project, hard to know. The state is still coming up with the exact regulations and what has to happen, so I don't -- I really don't have any commentary on kind of specifics to the overall regulations.

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Operator [61]

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This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Josh Hirsberg for any closing remarks.

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Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [62]

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Thanks, Nicole, and thanks for everyone joining the call today and taking the time out of your day. Should you have other questions for us, feel free to reach out to the company, and we'll talk to you then. Thank you very much.

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Operator [63]

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The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.