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Colorado company wins Control Board approval to buy Sparks resort

A Colorado-based casino company with Austrian roots was recommended Wednesday for licensing to acquire the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board unanimously approved an application for registration and findings of suitability for several of Century Casinos Inc.’s executives in a 90-minute afternoon hearing.

Just over a year ago, Century announced plans to buy the Nugget — a twin-towered, nearly 68-year-old, 1,600-room resort on Interstate 80, just east of Reno — from Marnell Gaming LLC for $195 million. Marnell is part of a family of Las Vegas-based companies that has designed and built several properties in Southern Nevada, including the M Resort.

The Nevada Gaming Commission is expected to consider final approval of the deal March 23. The deal is expected to close in mid-2023.

Board members questioned Century Casinos co-CEOs Peter Hoetzinger and Erwin Haitzmann and several other executives during the hearing, with members remarking they were satisfied with the records of all applicants.

The Nugget, three miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, has a 50,200-square-foot casino with 859 slot machines, 29 table games and an 8,555-seat outdoor amphitheater with a five-story, 1,200-space parking garage and an additional 1,272 parking spaces. It also has several casual and fine dining restaurants and 110,000 square feet of convention space.

Executives said one of their priorities will be to expand the gaming floor with 100 new slot machines and to upgrade a central bar in the casino.

Hoetzinger and Haitzmann explained how they started their careers in Austria and eventually made their way to Colorado Springs, Colorado, forming Century in 1992. The company has 17 casinos, some affiliated with horse tracks, with properties in Cripple Creek and Central City, Colorado; Cape Girardeau and Caruthersville, Missouri; New Cumberland, West Virginia; with four more in Alberta, Canada, and running eight of Poland’s 52 government-sanctioned casinos.

Hoetzinger said the company receives 75 percent of its revenue from properties in the United States, 14 percent from Canada and 11 percent from Poland. It will announce its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings Friday, but in 2021 reported $388.5 million in net operating revenue, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year.

In addition to acquiring the Nugget, Century announced in August that it is acquiring the operations of the Rocky Gap Casino Resorts in Maryland for $56.1 million from Golden Entertainment Inc. in a $260 million transaction that involves Vici Properties Inc. as the real estate holder. Century has a $350 million financial commitment from Goldman Sachs and a $30 million line of credit to finance the deals.

Once the deals close, Century officials expect 94 percent of their cash flow will be generated in North American properties.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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