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-sources@ (Adds Eldorado spokesman, background)
NEW YORK, June 23 (Reuters) - U.S. casino operator Eldorado Resorts Inc has agreed to merge with Caesars Entertainment Corp in a cash and stock deal that values its peer at about $18 billion including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
The agreement comes three months after Reuters reported that Caesars had agreed to give Eldorado access to its books under pressure from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who earlier this year was awarded seats on Caesars board.
The deal, which is expected to be announced on Monday, values Caesars at close to $13 a share, according to the sources. The combined company's ownership would be split roughly between Eldorado and Caesars shareholders, the sources said.
The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. An Eldorado spokesman said the company did not comment on rumors or speculation. Caesars did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The combination of the two companies would create a serious competitor to larger casino industry players, such as Las Vegas Sands Corp, Wynn Resorts Ltd and MGM Resorts International.
Caesars' shares closed on Friday at $9.99. The company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2017, operates casinos with the Harrah's and Horseshoe brands. It had 53 properties in 14 U.S. states and five countries outside the United States at the end of December.
Eldorado has a market value of $4 billion. It also had long-term debt at the end of March of $3.1 billion. It owns and operates 26 properties in 12 U.S. states.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by Peter Cooney)