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Gaming Guru

Brendan Riley

Nevada Gaming Commission: Panel backs South Coast deal

23 October 2006

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- A plan by Boyd Gaming Corp. to sell its 1,350-room South Coast in Las Vegas to veteran Nevada gambling figure Michael Gaughan won final approval Thursday from the state Gaming Commission.

Gaughan is founder and former operator of Coast Casinos, which Boyd Gaming acquired two years ago in a $1.3 billion merger. He also oversaw the $600 million construction of the South Coast, which he's getting debt-free and without any partners through a sale and turnover of his Boyd stock worth an estimated $512 million.

Although business at the South Coast, which opened in December, has been soft, Gaughan told the commission that a freeway interchange project will help improve access to the property in 2007.

"Everything is gradually looking better," he said.

Gaughan, who has said he didn't enjoy the corporate life he led since the Boyd merger, added that part of the improvement is that he's "going back to work" running his own business.

In addition to approving Gaughan's takeover at the South Coast, the Gaming Commission approved Marianne Boyd Johnson as vice president and director of Coast Casinos and Brian Larson as vice president.

William Richard Boyd was approved as vice president and director of a related entity, Boyd Gaming Corp.

In other action, the commission approved acquisition of the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Gambling Hall by Golden Gaming for an undisclosed price.

Privately held Golden Gaming, which operates in Nevada and Colorado, is buying the Nugget from Generation 2000, whose owners include Bill Richardson and members of U.S. Sen. John Ensign's family.

The Pahrump Nugget, built in 2001 on part of a 40-acre site, has 70 rooms, 553 slot machines, 10 table games, a sports book, poker room, restaurants, bowling alleys and banquet space.

Golden Gaming, headed by Blake Sartini, operates three casinos in Black Hawk, Colo., and is Nevada's largest tavern operator with 43 establishments under the name PT's Gold and PT's Pub. The company also operates some 2,500 slot machines at more than 200 locations throughout Nevada.

Sartini said some internal improvements are planned at the hotel-casino, which is on the main intersection in Pahrump and about an hour's drive from Las Vegas. He was noncommittal about any further expansion.

"We don't want to get too far ahead of the market out there," he said.

The commission also granted a two-year limited license to Reno-based GameTech International as a gambling device manufacturer and distributor and operator of intercasino linked systems and mobile gambling systems.

The company had faced a 2-1 vote from the state Gaming Control Board because of past regulatory problems that led to fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in other states.

But Bud Hicks, attorney for GameTech, told commissioners, "This is a different company today. ... This company is ready to step up."

GameTech board Chairman Richard Fedor had told the Control Board, the commission's enforcement and regulatory arm, that the company, which started in the unregulated bingo industry, has stabilized after a period of "disarray."

Fedor also said the company has big growth opportunities. GameTech recently agreed to buy Summit Amusement & Distributing Ltd. for $37 million in cash. Summit makes video lottery terminal equipment and other electronic gambling devices.

Nevada Gaming Commission: Panel backs South Coast deal is republished from