Lottomatica, Golden Gaming recommended for interactive gaming licenses

Two gaming companies of vastly different sizes and scope were recommended Wednesday to receive Nevada’s 18th and 19th interactive gaming licenses.

Italy-based Lottomatica Group, which is headquartered in Rome and owns several gaming industry subsidiaries, including lottery-provider G-Tech and slot machine maker Spielo, was approved as a technology provider.

Meanwhile, Sartini Synergy Online, the interactive arm of tavern and slot machine route operator Golden Gaming, was approved as an operator.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will render a final decision on both companies on Jan. 24.

Lottomatica has subsidiaries in Gibraltar, Canada, Luxembourg, Sweden, Cyprus and Austria. The company, which operates interactive gaming businesses in legal jurisdictions in Europe, plans to provide technology to Nevada-based casino operators that want to launch interactive gaming websites within the state.

Golden Gaming has slot machines in 650 locations throughout Nevada through bar and tavern business and slot route. The company also owns small casinos in Pahrump, which is where Sartini Synergy will be located.

Attorney Michael Alonso, who was representing Golden Gaming, presented a lengthy legal analysis to the control board as to why Sartini Synergy was eligible to operate under Nevada’s interactive gaming regulations.

Under the state’s rules, licensed casino operators are the parties eligible to operate poker-only interactive gambling websites that can only be accessed by customers wagering on computers or mobile devices within Nevada’s borders.

The Pahrump Nugget, which is where Sartini Synergy will be located, is a 70-room hotel-casino.

"We’re in the mode of precedent setting," said Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett.

Golden Gaming Chief Executive Officer Blake Sartini told regulators the company is still developing its interactive gaming strategy but might launch a free play Internet poker website as an initial venture.

He told the control board that Golden Gaming has a large customer base through its tavern and route businesses, which could translate into a healthy online game market.

Also Wednesday, regulators recommended Truckee Gaming to acquire three Northern Nevada casinos from Affinity Gaming. The private investment group, which is headed by Affinity Chief Operating Officer Ferenc Szony, agreed in September to pay $19.2 million for the casinos.

Szony will leave Affinity when the transaction closes at the end of the month but will remain a consultant to the company for at least two years.

The casinos are in Reno, Verdi and Dayton.

Szony was one of the last remaining links between Affinity and Herbst Gaming. Affinity was formed after the December 2010 bankruptcy reorganization of Herbst.

Szony joined Herbst in 2007 when the company acquired five Northern Nevada casinos for $140 million. The three casinos he is acquiring were part of the original 2007 deal. Szony told the control board he "knew the properties well" and was looking forward to operating the casinos as a private owner.

The transaction leaves Affinity with six casinos in Nevada, including the three Primm resorts and the off-Strip Terrible’s. The company also operates casinos in Iowa, Missouri and Colorado.

Contact Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow him on Twitter @howardstutz.

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