Fertitta Expands Golden Nugget Casino Prowess With Lake Tahoe Purchase

Written By Hill Kerby on April 13, 2023 - Last Updated on July 21, 2023
Fertitta Entertainment Brings Golden Nugget Casino To Lake Tahoe

Fertitta Entertainment announced last week it was buying Hard Rock Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada, from Paragon Gaming, and rebrand it into the Golden Nugget Casino family.

The purchase is the third significant investment into Nevada in recent months for Tilman Fertitta, the Houston-based billionaire and owner of Golden Nugget, Landry’s Inc. and the Houston Rockets. Casino gambling in Texas remains illegal.

In an article by the Houston Chronicle, Fertitta said:

“We are thrilled to be welcoming the Lake Tahoe property to the Golden Nugget family. This acquisition represents a significant opportunity for us to expand our footprint into the Northern Nevada marketplace.”

The Golden Nugget casino brand expands to have eight locations

The sale, expected to close in seven to 12 months, will bring Fertitta’s prospective number of Golden Nugget casinos to eight. Currently, that number is five, with casinos in:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Laughlin, Nevada
  3. Lake Charles, Louisiana
  4. Atlantic City, New Jersey
  5. Biloxi, Mississippi

Fertitta has owned and operated all five of these casinos since at least 2014 but is swiftly making moves to increase his footprint. In addition to Lake Tahoe, Fertitta purchased the Wildwood Hotel & Casino in Cripple Creek, Colorado, which also will be rebranded.

Golden Nugget will also open a new casino in Danville, Illinois, later this year. The company broke ground on the casino last April.

Once all three properties become operational under the Golden Nugget name, five will have become eight within a year.

Northern Nevada was an easy choice for casino expansion

Hard Rock Lake Tahoe sits on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe, with:

  • 25,000 square feet of gaming space;
  • More than 430 slot machines, table games and a sportsbook;
  • 539 hotel rooms;
  • Multiple restaurants, bars and stores;
  • Indoor and outdoor concert venues;
  • Full banquet and meeting facilities.

“We’re already in two other great Nevada locations. However, Lake Tahoe adds a great opportunity to our mix as it is noted as a great ski destination,” Fertitta said. “And with all its natural resources, it makes it an ideal gaming site.”

Fertitta is going even bigger in Sin City

The sale amounts of the Tahoe and Cripple Creek casinos were not disclosed, nor was the cost of the new Danville casino. Regardless, none of it compares to Fertitta’s investments in Las Vegas.

Last June, he bought a six-acre plot on the Las Vegas Strip, just south of Planet Hollywood, where he plans to build a 2,420-room resort and casino. Construction began last November.

Public records show Fertitta paid $270 million to acquire the land. The overall price tag for the project will be much greater, possibly reaching $3 billion.

Furthermore, Fertitta positioned himself significantly into another Strip property last October, purchasing 6.1% of Wynn Resorts for an estimated $385 million and making him the second-largest shareholder behind Elaine Wynn.

Fertitta has built an empire by putting his money to work. Though he may call Texas home, these interests show that Vegas is a big part of his picture moving forward.

Texas sports betting could be on the horizon and Fertitta is ready

For years, Fertitta staunchly opposed legal gambling in Texas, donating six figures to anti-gambling candidates such Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

At that time, he stood to gain more by keeping casinos out of Texas because his casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was fueled by Texas gamblers. The Lake Charles Golden Nugget gets roughly 80% of its business from Fertitta’s hometown of Houston.

Within the last year, Fertitta agreed to a $1.6 billion acquisition of Golden Nugget Online Gaming with DraftKings. Part of the agreement included a Houston Rockets partnership with terms to open a sportsbook inside Toyota Center if Texas sports betting becomes legal.

Fertitta’s views have expectedly changed recently. He has spoken in favor of legalizing sports gambling and brought the Rockets into the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, whose goal is to legalize sports betting and grant operator licenses to the state’s pro sports teams.

Sports betting will remain a hot topic during the 2023 legislative session and could be on the ballot as soon as November. The House State Affairs Committee has favorably advanced two bills that would allow for retail and online sportsbooks in Texas. Meanwhile, the Texas Senate has not brought any gambling legislation up for a possible committee hearing.

Should Fertitta’s plans to expand casino gambling and sports betting come to fruition in the next two years, much will rely on Patrick changing course on legal gambling in the state. At the moment, that seems like a tall order.

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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing for PlayTexas.

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