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New brands will help PT’s Taverns chain grow in Las Vegas Valley

Updated June 7, 2024 - 8:56 pm

The valley’s largest tavern operator is getting bigger.

The PT’s Taverns chain, which has been in operation in Nevada for more than 40 years, will push past 70 locations by the end of the month with a new strategy involving the use of new brands.

“We did a couple acquisitions of alternative operators last year, which Golden has never really done before,” explained Blake Sartini II, who oversees the tavern group as well as some of Golden Entertainment Inc.’s casino properties. “But I think as we’re on our quest to get to 80 to 100 tavern locations here in town, we felt like we needed some other brands to roll into the portfolio.”

Sartini explained that adding brands does several things: It enables the company to offer new tavern concepts, saturate a successful neighborhood with differing brands and prevent competitors from gaining a foothold in a particular neighborhood.

Golden’s brand lineup has always included the venerable PT’s Taverns and its upgraded PT’s Gold as well as the offshoot PT’s Ranch.

The company went for an upscale flagship brand when it introduced Sierra Gold and SG Bar. It also added Sean Patrick’s Pub & Grill to the mix.

Sartini said while there are some menu variances — Irish specialties at Sean Patrick’s, for example — the winning formula will always include high-definition televisions set up behind the bar and one or two dozen types of beer on tap behind the bar.

As Las Vegas has taken on the sports capital of the world mantra, the PT’s family is committed to being game viewing locations for Raiders, Golden Knights, Aces and UNLV fans, he said.

New brands

The newest additions to the brand family are Lucky’s and Great American Pub, which Sartini describes as having an East Coast vibe.

“I think that Vegas is ever evolving,” Sartini said. “I feel like we’ve been very fortunate to have people from all over the country continue to move to town. I think that this brand, Great American Pub, offers a little bit of that nostalgia for anybody that may be from the East Coast and is looking to venture into the tavern industry.”

The food also will be different.

“The food menu at the Great American Pub will be vastly different than anything we currently have in the PT’s or Sierra Gold,” Sartini said. “We’re offering a little bit more of a different option for people that may be looking for something different” from the traditional burgers, wings and fries.

Another difference with the newest property, which will open in late June at South Buffalo Drive and West Badura Avenue near the 215 Beltway, is that it’s a new build instead of a site conversion.

“It is the first new build that we’ve ever branded Great American Pub,” he said. “So other than a Sierra Gold or PT’s, this is really the first time we’ve ever built a new location without a PT’s or Sierra Gold brand on it. So this is a new venture for us that we’re very excited about as we continue to expand this brand throughout the valley.”

Tied by gaming

Although there are new brands in play, the PT’s chain shares many common bonds. The most obvious is that each tavern represents a gaming industry opportunity, although Sartini insists that pub customers are far different from traditional casino customers.

“Each one of these locations, whether they have the same brand or not, take on their own personality,” he said. “We really try to embrace that. So while they might have the same PT logo on the exterior and the same food menu, we allow the certain neighborhoods within town to really accept the personality that the customer base offers. While we run everything as a large corporation, we never want to lose that intimate, local, ‘Cheers’ atmosphere at these locations. So again, the tavern business is very unique and it’s nothing like the casino business.”

That’s the challenge for Sartini and the estimated 900 employees the company has.

While Sartini says the customer base and personality of each tavern is different, they’re still united through a common player loyalty program that enables customers to accumulate and spend rewards at Golden’s casino properties, which include Southern Nevada’s two Arizona Charlies’ locals properties as well as the Las Vegas Boulevard Strat property, home of the tallest observation structure west of the Mississippi River.

True Rewards

Golden’s five-tiered True Rewards players club program offers special jackpots and bonuses for slot machine play. Higher tiers offer VIP check-in services, room upgrades, priority restaurant seating at casinos, priority valet parking service, complimentary resort fees and car rental discounts at National, Enterprise and Alamo.

Since PT’s rewards can be cashed in at the Strat, Sartini said loyal players will find their way to the Top of the World restaurant where diners have some of the best views of the valley as they eat.

While Sartini embraces the tavern atmosphere as a different type of locals gaming environment, it isn’t lost on Brendan Bussmann, a gaming industry analyst with Las Vegas-based B Global, that 71 outlets with restricted gaming licenses can be as lucrative as a casino with more than 1,000 slot machines.

“The locals market has always been robust and the different customer segments that exist within it,” Bussmann said in an email. “Local casinos have their place and customer base just as the local taverns have their place and customer base. As the valley continues to grow, those same bases grow that will end up at a PT’s versus going to a neighborhood casino or the Strip.”

Bussmann said a telling factor is that the tavern model used by Golden and PT’s is proving to be a sustainable model and is being replicated in other parts of the country as a local place to game while providing good food-and-beverage and entertainment experiences.

“While outsiders to the Nevada market may focus on the Strip, the entire gaming ecosystem is important to Nevada,” Bussmann said. “This includes the local casinos as well as the local taverns that provide entertainment and convenience to the customer.”

Late last year, Golden exited one piece of the local business when it sold its distributive gaming operation — the slot-machine routes that serviced bars, taverns and convenience stores — to Oak Tree Capital Management, the parent company of J&J Ventures Gaming, Effingham, Illinois. J&J, which also acquired Golden’s Montana slot route, paid a total $322.5 million, plus $39 million in purchased cash in a deal first announced in March 2023 and closed in December.

The purchased cash is the amount inside the machines on the route at the time the transaction closed.

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

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