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Indy Gaming: Reno-based Truckee Gaming acquires Rail City Casino in Sparks

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Gaming newsletter, a weekly look at gaming matters nationally and internationally and how the events tie back to Nevada.

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Northern Nevada casino operator Ferenc Szony has put the band back together.

Last week, Affinity Gaming announced it was selling Rail City Casino in Sparks to Truckee Gaming, reuniting the property with its former owner.

Szony, the CEO and managing partner of the Reno-based company, operated Rail City and several other Northern Nevada gaming establishments more than a decade ago when they were sold to Affinity’s predecessor, Herbst Gaming.

Two years after Herbst’s bankruptcy reorganization was finalized in 2011, Szony, who joined Herbst as an executive in 2007 and was helping steer the company through the post-bankruptcy matters, took back ownership of three of the casinos when he formed Truckee Gaming in 2012.

“We just couldn’t come to an agreement on Rail City,” he said last week after the sale was announced. “We’re glad to have it back. A lot of the same employees are still at Rail City and we look forward to welcoming them back into the company.”

Truckee Gaming, which is based in Reno, owns Gold Ranch Casino & RV Resort in Verdi, Gold Ranch Casino in Dayton and three Pioneer Crossing Casinos in Dayton, Fernley and Yerington. The company also owns Club Fortune Casino in Henderson. Szony said Rail City’s 100 employees give Truckee Gaming a workforce of roughly 500 companywide.

A sale price for Rail City was not disclosed and the transaction is expected to close by the end of the year, pending Nevada regulatory approval.

Szony said the timing for the transaction “is perfect” given the growth and changes in the Sparks gaming market. The Nugget Casino Resort, one of the largest casinos in Northern Nevada, is in the process of being sold to Century Casinos for $195 million, and the opening last August of the $120 million Legends Bay has given the Sparks region an economic boost.

Sparks gaming revenue grew 16.7 percent in 2022 to $14.2 million compared to a year ago. Szony said the region continues to grow with new housing and new businesses.

“The market dynamic and the growth in Sparks is good for all of us,” Szony said. “Century is a great operator and Legends added to the market. The growth is big enough for all of us.”

Absent hotel rooms, Rail City is targeted toward locals with its 24,000-square-foot casino housing 415 slot machines, a keno lounge, a William Hill race and sports book and dining options that include Ale House American Café and a buffet.

The Colorado Belle Hotel and Casino in Laughlin is seen on April 20, 2012. (Photo via Pierre André/Wikimedia Commons)

Laughlin’s Colorado Belle nearing three-year anniversary of closing

Nevada gaming regulators used a recent licensing hearing for the new general manager of Golden Entertainment’s three casinos in Laughlin to ask when the Colorado Belle would reopen.

The riverboat-themed hotel-casino closed three years ago on March 18 when the state’s gaming industry shut down for 78 days due to the pandemic. But unlike the company’s two other Laughlin casinos, Aquarius and Edgewater, Colorado Belle has remained shuttered.

General manager Jeremy Jenson, who took over the Laughlin casinos last year, said the Laughlin market has been “stable” in the past two years.

“It’s something we continue to look at and evaluate and see what we want to do with that property,” Jenson told the Gaming Control Board, which recommended unanimous approval for his gaming license. “It’s something we have internal conversations with the team and we’re just weighing our options at this point.”

According to the control board, Laughlin’s nine operating casinos and seven satellite sportsbooks produced $500.7 million in gaming revenue in 2022, a 3 percent increase from 2021. The figure was still 2.2 percent below the pre-pandemic 2019 total of $512.2 million. The single-year gaming revenue record for Laughlin was $631.2 million in 2007.

Laughlin and North Las Vegas are the only gaming markets statewide that remain below pre-pandemic revenue totals. 

Golden didn’t break out the revenue from its two operating Laughlin casinos in its most recent earnings report, which was included in the $406.9 million from Nevada resort operations that also covers The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod.

Last year, Golden Chairman and CEO Blake Sartini called the Colorado Belle’s location along the Colorado River "a one-of-a-kind piece of property on the riverfront and has a multitude of potential uses.” The 1,200-room casino is the second largest of the company’s three properties behind the 1,900-room Aquarius and the 1,052-room Edgewater.

Jenson, who has been licensed four times by Nevada gaming regulators, previously served as general manager of Golden’s two Arizona Charlie’s casinos in Las Vegas and the company’s three casinos in Pahrump.

The Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

Century Casinos expects to close $195 million purchase of Sparks Nugget in April

Two days after Century Casinos received tentative Nevada regulatory approval for its $195 million purchase of the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, the company’s top executives offered insight into their ideas for the property.

“We are finalizing our plans for initial investments and upgrades, and I'm more excited than ever about the potential for improvements,” co-CEO Peter Hoetzinger said of the 1,382-room Nugget during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call, which took place 48 hours after the Gaming Control Board recommended approval of the purchase from Marnell Gaming.

The Nugget, one of Northern Nevada’s largest casinos, will become Century’s flagship property. The Colorado-based company operates casinos in Colorado, Missouri, West Virginia and is acquiring a casino in Maryland.

“The immediate focus will be on the gaming floor as well as on raising the potential for synergy effects across all operational departments,” Hoetzinger said.

The company expects to close on the purchase during the first week of April. The closing is dependent on Century winning final approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission on March 23.

Hoetzinger said Century would close on its purchase of the Rocky Gap Casino Resort later this summer. Century and VICI Properties teamed up to acquire the Western Maryland casino for a combined $260 million. He said Century would pay down debt and return cash to shareholders once the casino purchases are closed.

Looking north from the 25-acre site where Oak View Group wants to build a 20,000-seat sports arena is the land that Brightline has designated for a station to service a highspeed train connecting Las Vegas with Southern California. Photo was taken on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

LA-to-Vegas high-speed rail developer agrees to deal with building trades

A long-planned high-speed rail system that would connect Southern California with Las Vegas got a boost last week when building trade unions in two states announced a memorandum of understanding with the project’s developer.

The 218-mile system is still in the development stages, but the officials from the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, Southern Nevada Building Trades Union and developer Brightline West said the agreement is a positive step in moving forward with the project.

“We continue to build a powerful coalition around Brightline West and our vision for high-speed rail in America,” Brightline Holdings CEO Mike Reininger said in a statement.

Brightline West says it will spend $10 billion to connect Las Vegas and Southern California through the Interstate 15 right-of-way, with trains capable of speeds up to 200 miles per hour. There will be a California-based station in Rancho Cucamonga that will connect to another station in Las Vegas, tentatively set for Las Vegas Boulevard, roughly 2 miles south of Mandalay Bay.

Additional California stations will be built in Hesperia and Apple Valley.

The system could alleviate traffic along I-15 and provide another means for Southern Californians to visit Las Vegas.

The agreement is expected to create nearly 10,000 construction jobs in California and Nevada. The Southern Nevada Building Trades Union is an alliance of 14 labor unions across the region.

An attendee plays a gaming machine at the Everi Holdings booth during G2E on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)


Via press release from Everi Holdings

Longtime casino industry executive and consultant Debra Nutton has joined the board of gaming equipment provider Everi Holdings. Nutton was the executive vice president of casino operations for Wynn Las Vegas and consulted on the opening of Encore Boston Harbor in 2019. She was an adviser to the preopening team at Resorts World Las Vegas. Nutton also held management positions with MGM Resorts International

"We look forward to benefiting from her counsel and insights. Debra joins us at an opportune time to assist with the expansive growth opportunities that we expect will take Everi to even greater prominence in coming years."

-          Michael Rumbolz, executive chairman, Everi Holdings

Via Full House Resorts fourth-quarter earnings conference call

Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts, which opened a temporary casino in Waukegan, Illinois, last month, said it would be a few more months before a sportsbook operated by Derek Stevens’ Circa Sports is unveiled at the property. Full House told analysts last week the company expects to see annual revenue of $10 million for its sports betting partnerships at its casinos in Colorado, Illinois and Indiana. Circa will account for half of the overall total.

“Circa is the most valuable because Illinois has so many people in the state and there just aren't very many sports skins in the state.

-          Lewis Fanger, CFO, Full House


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