New Jersey Casino Board Approves Golden Nugget Online Request
After a hearing that lasted more than 90 minutes and included testimony from two company executives, Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s request to break off its Internet gaming operations from the brick-and-mortar casino and take the new company public was approved Wednesday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
The NJCCC’s special meeting Wednesday to review Golden Nugget’s request was conducted by chairman James T. Plousis and commissioner Alisa Cooper. The issuance request for a new casino license to Golden Nugget Online Gaming LLC as an Internet gaming affiliate of Golden Nugget Atlantic City was granted.
Once the deal between Golden Nugget and special acquisition company Landcadia II is approved by federal regulators and becomes final, its shares would be sold on Nasdaq. It is currently traded under the symbol “LCA,” but will change its name to Golden Nugget Online Gaming Inc. and its Nasdaq trading symbol to “GNOG.”
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. It would make GNOG the second pure publicly traded online casino company in the nation, according to a June news release announcing the merger between Golden Nugget and Lancadia II.
The first to testify Wednesday was Thomas Winter, president of GNOG and who has led Golden Nugget’s online gaming operations since its debut in New Jersey in 2013.
PA & Michigan Next for Golden Nugget
Winter said that offices will be maintained in Atlantic City and confirmed that it will expand into Pennsylvania and Michigan pending state approval, with plans to launch its online casino brand in those states in early 2021. The Golden Nugget brand is known for online live casino games innovation, having brought Live Dealer, Live Casino Floor gambling and additional slot machine games to mobile and online devices in the U.S.
GNOG this week gained market access in West Virginia for an online sportsbook and iGaming, according to a news release. GNOG is partnering with the Greenbrier Hotel, which still must receive regulatory approvals. The Greenbrier has sports betting agreements with FanDuel and BetMGM.
Winter said that Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia will ramp up quicker than when New Jersey launched. The company does not expect Pennsylvania and Michigan to be profitable from the start. An estimated loss of $27.2 million in 2021 with a $14.5 million loss in 2022 is expected. Profits from New Jersey and cash in hand from going public, including a credit line of $20 million, will help offset the losses.
More advertising and marketing investments in New Jersey will occur in 2021 with a new and improved product than the year before and is planning to expand its Live Dealer studio in Atlantic City with more gaming tables and jobs.
Services to Stay in Atlantic City
Golden Nugget was the first brand to bring live dealer games to New Jersey and currently has 18 tables and 120 jobs within its studio in the Garden State. Customer service and payment operations will continue to stay in Atlantic City (about 40% of GNOG staff) and that those operations will be increased by about 50% over next 18 months to handle the Pennsylvania and Michigan launches when they occur.
According to Winter, 6% of online bettors come to brick-and-mortar and that that number will increase pending the coronavirus situation on a year-to-year basis.
Also listed on the petition in New Jersey was Landcadia Holdings II, Inc., which announced in late June that it was acquiring GNOG. Landcadia II is a blank-check company or SPAC launched by billionaire Tilman Fertitta.
Fertitta owns five Golden Nugget casinos — two in Nevada, one in Atlantic City, one in Biloxi, Mississippi, and one in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He is owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets; Landry’s Inc.; and several restaurant chains including Morton’s The Steakhouse.
More Improvements for Golden Nugget AC
The second and last testimony Wednesday at the casino board was given by Richard H. Liem, chief financial officer and vice president at Landcadia, and a long-time member of Golden Nugget’s executive team.
If the acquisition is finalized, 79.9% of voting power would be held by Fertitta, who strongly believes that maintaining its GNOG properties is of the utmost importance to the growth of the company, Liem said. Liem added that continuing renovations are occurring at the marina, an improved parking garage has been built and that investments on the slot floors continue in Atlantic City, and he said to expect another round of significant renovations over the next three to five years.
The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City has just 700 hotel rooms, which is less than its nearby competition. Liem said he does not foresee another hotel room tower built on site.
Late last week, GNOG entered into an agreement with Danville Development LLC for market access to Illinois for online sports wagering and iGaming, when it is legalized. There is also a joint venture between Golden Nugget and Wilmot Gaming Illinois LLC to build a new casino in Danville, pending regulatory approvals.
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