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The commission's decision makes Golden Gaming of Las Vegas the largest slot machine route operator in Nevada. Blake Sartini, CEO of Golden Gaming, said the deal gives his company 8,500 slot machines and at 650 locations.
Sartini's company also becomes the largest casino operators in Nye County. Golden Gaming already owns Golden Pahrump and is acquiring Terrible's Lakeside Casino and R.V. Resort and Terrible's Town Casino - Pahrump.
Under the plan, Affinity Gaming will acquire three Black Hawk casino properties in Colorado. Sartini described the deal as "a swap of assets except for a small amount of cash."
Sartini said the acquisition made sense for both companies since Affinity was looking to diversify into a regional gaming company. Based in Las Vegas, Affinity owns 11 casinos in three states, including eight in Nevada.
The Colorado Division of Gaming must approve the Affinity deal. Sartini said Colorado regulators should approve it within six to nine months, but until the deal closes Golden Gaming will maintain a presence as the licensed operator of the three casinos.
He said within six months of the closing of the transaction both hotels in Pahrump will be rebranded. Sartini assured the five-member commission that both companies would be "bringing everyone over at this time."
Golden Gaming employs 526 people in Pahrump, whose population is 38,000. The company, which owns PT's Pub and Sierra Gold Nevada, employs 2,000 people statewide.
Sartini admitted there were business redundancies, but most were on the slot machine route side of the business.
"We are very sensitive that we are good partners" with the communities where we operate, Sartini told commissioners. But Sartini said, "We are going to direct the business in the way it needs to go."
Before the commission considered the Golden Gaming application, it heard from Shawn Corrigan in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Michael Corrigan Restaurants against Sartini over a failed deal involving four Roadrunner bars and restaurants. A trial is set for July in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.
Corrigan, president of Roadrunner saloons, said his business would be directly affected by having the largest tavern owners in the state become the largest slot machine route operator in Nevada.
Corrigan asked the commission to deny Golden Gaming's application.
Before asking for a motion for approval, Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said the allegations of fraud made in the lawsuit were "very serious." But he said it's the court system that determines guilt, not the gaming commission.
If Sartini is found guilty, Bernhard said, the commission could hold a disciplinary hearing. The gaming commission approved Golden Gaming's purchase of Affinity's casinos and slot route by a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Joseph Brown abstaining.
In other business, the commission unanimously approved the license for Fifth Street Gaming LLC and its executives Seth Matthew Schoor and Jeffrey A. Fine to operate the Downtown Grand, formerly known as the Lady Luck.
The business partners also gained approval to operate 16 slot machines at the "Mob Bar" in downtown Las Vegas. The 650-room Lady Luck at Third Street and Ogden Avenue is completely gutted now but renovations should be completed by the end of June 2013.
The commission conditioned the partners' license requiring them to submit financial documents 180 days before the Downtown Grand opens, submit a new lease agreement with the landlord CIM for review, and receive commission approval prior to any expansion of gaming operations.
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