Reno casino consolidation mimics Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

Reno casino consolidation mimics Vegas

BRENDAN RILEY, Associated Press Writer

Vegas-style casino consolidations are occurring in Northern Nevada as three Reno resorts take advantage of strength in numbers, regulators and operators said Wednesday.

”Consolidation creeps north,” Gaming Control Board member Dennis Neilander said after executives of The Sands Regency in Reno discussed their new ties with the Flamingo Hilton-Reno and the Comstock hotel-casinos in Reno.

The three properties have been acquired by Sapphire Gaming LLC and its affiliate, Hertz Investment Group of Los Angeles.

”Just take a zero or two off, and it’s the same thing,” Neilander added, referring to consolidations of much larger southern Nevada casino corporations worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Recently MGM Grand Inc. announced a $4.4 billion deal to acquire Mirage Resorts Inc.

Ferenc Szony, president and CEO of The Sands Regency, said the consolidation means better interest rates and marketing efforts for the linked properties. He also said Reno isn’t fading away in the face of new competition – just adjusting to a 21 percent expansion in hotel rooms in a short time frame.

The Sands was on the Gaming Control Board’s agenda because of a refinancing with Foothill Capital Corp. of California. Foothill got a security pledge in the process, and that had to be endorsed by the board.

Sapphire agreed in December to buy the Flamingo Hilton-Reno for $20 million. Last May, Sapphire bought the Comstock and agreed to buy a 46 percent stake in The Sands Regency.

In other action, the Control Board:

-Endorsed stock transfers from Quinton Boshoff, John Tipton and Brian McMullan to Swiss Casinos of America Inc. after a corporate decision to put $36 million into its Regent Las Vegas resort in Las Vegas. Tipton remains as an executive at the upscale resort which targets golfers who like to gamble, but Boshoff and McMullan are gone from the initial management team that faced costly construction delays before opening last summer.

-Recommended Starfire Holding Corp. and owner Carl Icahn, a New York billionaire and corporate raider, as the parent company at Arizona Charlie’s East hotel-casino, the old Sunrise Suites, in Las Vegas. Starfire got the bankrupt property for $43 million and put $12 million more into it, club executives told the board, adding that a late-May opening is planned.

Icahn is known to invest in undervalued properties, making immediate changes and selling out after turning quick profits. Other Las Vegas acquisitions include Arizona Charlie’s and the Stratosphere hotel-casino.

The Control Board was told work has just started on a major expansion at the Stratosphere, and Icahn has arranged for a $65 million ”bridge” loan to cover the costs.