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Control Board recommends sale of Golden’s slot machine routes

Updated December 6, 2023 - 1:18 pm

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday recommended approval of the licensing of an Illinois company to take over the distributive gaming assets of Golden Entertainment Inc. that would make it the largest slot route operator in the country.

Distributed gaming involves slot machine routes on which workers install, maintain and operate slot machines at bars, taverns, restaurants, grocery stores and convenience markets.

Representatives of Oak Tree Capital Management, the parent company of J&J Ventures Gaming, Effingham, Illinois, told Control Board members that if the licensing request were approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission on Dec. 21, it would oversee 25,000 slot machines at 3,500 locations in five states.

In March, Golden Entertainment, operators of the PT’s Pubs chain of taverns in Nevada, announced plans to sell its slot routes in Nevada and Montana to J&J for $213.5 million plus an estimated $34 million of purchased cash for the Nevada route and $109 million plus an estimated $5 million of purchased cash in Montana. The purchased cash is the amount inside the machines on the route.

At the time of the announcement, Golden also said it had entered a five-year agreement with J&J to support the gaming operations of Golden’s branded tavern locations in Nevada at financial terms consistent with the company’s past practice.

J&J Ventures Inc., the predecessor company, began route operations in 1929. Today, J&J Gaming is one of the largest terminal operators in Illinois and Pennsylvania. J&J Amusements is a leading operator of nongaming devices such as dart machines, pool tables, jukeboxes, ATMs, and other amusement devices.

Matthew Wilson, an officer with parent company Oak Tree, said Golden would become J&J’s biggest customer when the transaction closes.

Blake Sartini II, executive vice president of operations for Golden and son of Golden Entertainment Chairman and CEO Blake Sartini, told board members the transaction was bittersweet because he grew the slot route to a multimillion-dollar enterprise over two decades. He said PT’s expects to have around 70 locations in Nevada when a recent expansion is completed next year.

Golden plans to use proceeds of the sale to enhance its other commercial gaming operations, including The Strat, Arizona Charlie’s and properties in Pahrump and Laughlin.

Control Board members also unanimously recommended approval of licensing for two downtown Henderson casino properties to new owner ECL Hospitality Management LLC, owned by businessmen Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone.

Winchell and Boulder Highway Gaming LLC and Water Street Gaming LLC jointly announced the sale of the Emerald Island Casino and Rainbow Club Casino on Water Street in Henderson to Winchell and Falcone for an undisclosed price last month.

At the time of the announcement, Winchell said he would retain current owner Tim Brooks to continue to oversee the property when the deal closes in January.

When the deal is completed, ECL will have 45 properties in three states.

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

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