Three weeks after Penn National Gaming announced it was in discussions to buy rival Pinnacle Entertainment, the firms announced a cash-and-stock deal Monday valued at $2.8 billion.

The combined company will operate 41 properties, including L'Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge, L'Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, Boomtown Casino and Hotel New Orleans and Boomtown Casino and Hotel Bossier City.

Penn National will sell four Pinnacle properties — two in Missouri and one each in Indiana and Ohio — for about $575 million in cash to Boyd Gaming Corp.

Regulators in each state where the companies operate must sign off on the deal.

That process is going to take a while, said Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Among other things, Louisiana State Police and state Attorney General's Office investigators will have to review what's expected to be a raft of documents from Penn National and Pinnacle.

"I wouldn't want to speculate how long it will take, but we're talking months," Jones said.

None of the paperwork has been submitted yet, he said. Jones said one of the first steps will involve an introductory meeting between Penn National executives and Gaming Control Board staff.

Penn National Gaming eyeing purchase of rival casino owner Pinnacle Entertainment

Pinnacle leases and operates the L'Auberge casinos and hotels in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, Boomtown casinos and hotels in New Orleans Bossier City.

In 2013 Penn National spun off Gaming and Leisure Properties, a real estate investment trust that owns and operates Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge among its properties. Pinnacle sold its Louisiana properties in 2016 to Gaming and Leisure Properties and has been paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in rent to the group to lease and operate the four riverboats.

Previously, Jones said it was too early to speculate how a potential Penn National-Pinnacle deal would affect the Baton Rouge casino market. Hollywood Casino operator Gaming and Leisure Properties is “pretty separated out” from Penn National, which would take over operations of the nearby L'Auberge in Baton Rouge.

Colin Mansfield, a director with Fitch Ratings who tracks the casino industry, said regional operators such as Penn National have been vocal about looking for large-scale mergers to “move the needle.”

Penn expects about $100 million in annual cost savings as a result of the deal.

Now that casinos have become legal in more and more markets, regional companies want to have a presence in as many geographic areas as possible, Mansfield said. “Being more diversified is a good thing, for stability of revenues,” he said. “You’re not as exposed if you’re in just a few markets.”

Merger activity involving local casino operators has been picking up recently. Earlier this year, Eldorado Resorts, which has a casino in Shreveport, bought Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. and its 14 casinos for $1.7 billion. Gaming and Leisure Properties bought Bally’s Casino Tunica and Resorts Casino Tunica in Robinsonville, Mississippi, for $82.6 million.

Advocate business writers Ted Griggs and Timothy Boone contributed to this report.