Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Golden Nugget casinos, has approached Caesars Entertainment Corp. about a possible merger, according to people familiar with the billionaire’s plans.

Closely held Golden Nugget would be combined into the larger Las Vegas rival, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. CNBC said the deal would value Caesars at $13 a share. Reuters first reported Fertitta’s interest earlier Wednesday.

A merger could help Fertitta, who borrowed heavily to buy the Houston Rockets basketball team for $2.2 billion last year, reduce his debt while greatly increasing the properties under his control. He’s expanded his casino business in recent years, opening a resort in Louisiana in 2014 and remodeling properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Investors welcomed the prospect of a deal. Shares of Caesars rose as much as 24 percent to $11.28 in New York. The stock was down 28 percent this year through Tuesday. Revenue on the Las Vegas Strip has been tepid and Caesars, with a market value of $7.2 billion, disappointed shareholders this summer with a warning of tough conditions in the top U.S. gambling market.

Fertitta, 61, made his fortune in the restaurant business, building Landry’s Inc. into a national powerhouse featuring brands such as Saltgrass Steak House and Joe’s Crab Shack. He often markets his casino and restaurant properties together in magazine ads and via his customer loyalty programs. His closely held casinos also feature his eateries — a strategy that could grow with the addition of Caesars, the largest owner of casinos across the U.S., with more than 30 properties.

Caesars, based in Las Vegas, has been led since 2015 by Mark Frissora, former chief executive officer of Hertz Global Holdings Inc. Many of the company’s largest shareholders are private equity funds such as Apollo Global Management and TPG, or distressed debt investors, that came aboard in a 2008 leveraged buyout or through a subsequent bankruptcy and restructuring.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P. This article was written by Christopher Palmeri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Caesars Entertainment has reportedly been approached by a rival, Golden Nugget, about a possible merger. John Locher / Associated Press